Seven institutionalized children and their adaptation in late adulthood: the children of Duplessis (Les Enfants de Duplessis)

Psychiatry. 2006 Winter;69(4):283-301. doi: 10.1521/psyc.2006.69.4.283.


War, societal and familial upheaval, disease, and natural disasters have resulted in orphaned children throughout time. One societal response to providing care for orphans has been institutionalization or the orphanage. We studied a sample of adults, known as les enfants de Duplessis or Duplessis's children, who were raised in Quebec institutions from birth onward and followed up in late adulthood. Systematic study indicated a high prevalence of adverse outcomes and found high levels of gross psychological trauma and adversity which, moderated by the childhood strengths of the individuals, had adverse effects on adult outcome (Sigal, Perry, Rossignol, & Ouimet, 2003; Perry, Sigal, Boucher, Paré, & Ouimet, 2005a; Perry, Sigal, Boucher, Paré, Ouimet, Norman, & Henry, 2005b). This report describes the experiences of seven individuals in the institutions and their subsequent life history and current functioning. The individual cases reflect a wide range of childhood strengths and experiences of trauma and other adversity in relationship to adult caretakers. While the group overall appears to have had seriously diminished functioning in late adulthood, several individuals had positive outcomes. We hope that by highlighting the potentially adverse effects of institutional rearing on subsequent development into late adulthood, these stories may inform those concerned with the care of orphans.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology
  • Child, Institutionalized / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Defense Mechanisms
  • Dissociative Disorders
  • Female
  • Foster Home Care / psychology*
  • Homeless Persons / psychology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Object Attachment
  • Personality Assessment
  • Personality Development*
  • Quebec
  • Sampling Studies
  • Self Efficacy
  • Social Adjustment
  • Social Environment
  • Social Support
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*