Attachment - Romanian Orphan Studies
Attachment - Romanian Orphan Studies
May be difficult to generalise
- conditions of the Romanian orphanages are so bad (particularly when it came to forming any relationships with the children) that
results may not apply to common institutional care
. May lack external validity.
Children were not randomly assigned to conditions
- Rutter did not interfere with the adoption process, so those
children adopted early may have been more sociable ones
, a confounding variable. The Bucharest study did randomly assign orphans to institutional care or fostering. Methodologically better because it removes confounding variable of children being selected by parents, but it raises ethical issues.
Fewer confounding variables than other research
- many previous studies involved children who had experienced loss or trauma before institutionalisation, confounding variables which made it difficult to observe the isolated affects of institutionalisation. In the Romanian studies,
most were abandoned at birth and so these confounding variables are not present, increasing the internal validity
Long-term effects of early experience are not clear
- adopted orphans were only followed into their mid-teens so
we can only determine short-term effects
. Those who currently lag behind in intellectual development may still catch up as adults. Equally, those who currently appear to have no problems may have emotional problems arise later.
Important practical applications
- led to improvements in the way children are cared for in institutions.
Now avoid having large numbers of carers for each child, just one or two 'key workers' who play a central role
. Gives child chance to develop normal attachments.
Study: Rutter et al.
Researchers followed a group of 165 Romanian orphans who experienced poor conditions before being adopted in Britain
Tests the extend to which good care can make up for poor early experiences in institutions. Physical, cognitive and emotional development was assessed at ages 4, 6, 11 and 15 years.
Study followed a control group of 52 adopted British children.
Half the orphans showed signs of mental retardation when they came to Britain. At age 11, their recovery rates related to their age of adoption:
Adopted before six months - mean IQ of 102
Adopted between six months and two years - mean IQ of 86
Adopted after two years - mean IQ of 77
There were differences in attachment depending on age of adoption:
Adopted before six months - fewer problems
Adopted after six months - apparent disinhibited attachment (clinginess, attention-seeking, indiscriminate affection to carers and strangers)
Support the view that there is a sensitive period in attachment
- failure to form an attachment before the age of six months appears to have long-lasting effects.
Study: Zeanah et al. (Bucharest Early Intervention Project)
Researchers used Strange Situation to
determine attachment types of 95 children aged 12-31 months
who had spent most of their lives in institutional care
compared to a control group
who had never experienced institutional care
Only 19% of the institution group were classified as securely attached, compared to 74% of the control group.
65% of the institutionalised group were classified as disorganised attachment
Effects of Institutionalisation
- the child is equally friendly to people they know well or who are strangers they just met. Adaptation as a result of having multiple carers (children in Romanian orphanages had up to 50 carers but did not spend enough time with any to form secure attachments).
- institutionalised children often showed signs of damage to intellectual development when they arrived in Britain. However
if they were adopted before the age of six months, they usually caught up with the control group by the age of four
. Shows effects of institutionalisation on intellectual development may not be permanent as long as they adopted before six months (when they start forming attachments).