Romanian Orphan Studies: Effects of Institutionalisation


Romanian orpahs studies: Effects of institutionalisation

Key study: Rutter and Sonuga-Barke

  • Includes 165 Romanian orphans who spend their early lives in insitutions and suffered the effects of institutionalisation.
  • They were tested at regular intervals (ages 4,6, 11 and 15) to assess physical, cognitive and social development and compared to a control group of British chidren adopted before the age of six months.


  • When adopted the Romanian orphans were smaller and lighter than the British children and were classified as mentlly retarded.
  • By the age of four, almost all of the children adopted before the age of six months and some of the others had caught up with the British children.
  • But those adopted after the age of six months still had significant deficits such such as disinhibited attachments.
  • This suggests that long term consquences of institutionalisation may be less severe if children have the opportunity to form attachments. 

Effects of institutionalisation:

  • Physical underdevelopment - was found they are usually phsyically small due to lack of emotional care rather than poor nourishment (deprivation dwarfism). 
  • Intellectual underfunctioning  - cognitive development is also affected by emotional deprivation.
  • Disinhibted attachment - a form of insecure attachment where children do not discriminate…


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