Designing research to study the effects of institutionalization on brain and behavioral development: the Bucharest Early Intervention Project

Dev Psychopathol. 2003 Fall;15(4):885-907. doi: 10.1017/s0954579403000452.


This paper provides an overview of the largest longitudinal investigation of institutionalized children less than 2 years old ever conducted. The Bucharest Early Intervention Project is an ongoing randomized controlled trial of foster placement as an alternative to institutionalization in abandoned infants and toddlers being conducted in Bucharest, Romania. In addition to describing the contexts in which this study is imbedded, we also provide an overview of the sample, the measures, and the intervention. We hope that the natural experiment of institutionalization will allow us to examine directly the effects of intervention on early deprivation. We hope it will provide answers to many of the critical questions that developmentalists have asked about the effects of early experience, the timing of deprivation, and the ameliorating effects of early intervention and provide clues to which underlying neurobiological processes are compromised by, and resilient to, dramatic changes in early experience.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / ethnology*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / etiology*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Child, Institutionalized / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Culture
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Institutionalization*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Maternal Age
  • Mothers
  • Romania