Children in Institutional Care: Delayed Development and Resilience

Monogr Soc Res Child Dev. 2011 Dec;76(4):8-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5834.2011.00626.x.


Children exposed to institutional care often suffer from "structural neglect" which may include minimum physical resources, unfavorable and unstable staffing patterns, and social-emotionally inadequate caregiver-child interactions. This chapter is devoted to the analysis of the ill effects of early institutional experiences on resident children's development. Delays in the important areas of physical, hormonal, cognitive, and emotional development are discussed. The evidence for and against the existence of a distinctive set of co-occurring developmental problems in institutionalized children is weighed and found to not yet convincingly demonstrate a "post-institutional syndrome". Finally, shared and non-shared features of the institutional environment and specific genetic, temperamental, and physical characteristics of the individual child are examined that might make a crucial difference in whether early institutional rearing leaves irreversible scars.