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Foster care associated with improved growth, intelligence compared to orphanage care
Date:4/5/2010

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (April 5, 2010) Socially deprived children removed from orphanages and placed in foster care appear to experience gains in growth and intelligence, catching up to their non-institutionalized peers on many measures, according to a report posted online today that will appear in the June print issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Social deprivation a lack of access to social and material resources is known to be associated with a syndrome of poor growth in children, according to background information in the article.

"Several subtypes have been described, though all share two characteristics: otherwise unexplained growth failure occurring in association with socially stressful conditions and significant catch-up when a child's caregiving environment improves," said Dana Johnson, M.D., Ph.D., the principal investigator of the study.

Johnson and his colleagues in the Medical School studied 136 healthy institutionalized infants (average age 21 months) from six orphanages in Bucharest, Romania. Of these, half were randomly assigned to remain in their facilities and half were assigned to a foster care program. Their growth rates and measures of intelligence over time were assessed, and they were compared with each other and with a group of 72 never-institutionalized children at 30, 42 and 54 months of age. Caregiving environments were evaluated by analyzing and coding 90-minute videotapes of the children interacting with their preferred caregivers.

At the beginning of the study, institutionalized children displayed compromised growth and development, with more severe deficits among those who were born weighing less than 5.5 lbs.. Children assigned to foster care showed rapid increases in height and weight (but not head circumference), so that by 12 months, 100 percent of them were in the normal range for height, 90 percent were in the normal range f
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Contact: Nick Hanson
hans2853@umn.edu
612-624-2449
University of Minnesota
Source:Eurekalert

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