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An environment in which family members support and express their feelings may reduce the effects of social deprivation on the cognitive ability and development of adopted children, suggests a small study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health. In contrast, rule-driven households where family members are in conflict may increase the chances of adopted children having cognitive, behavioral, and emotional difficulties.

The study was conducted by Margaret F. Keil, Ph.D., and colleagues in the Endocrinology and Genetics Section of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Eunice Kennedy Shriver (NICHD) at NIH. Appears in Pediatric research.

The researchers enrolled children who had spent at least eight months in Eastern European orphanages before being adopted by American families. The children ranged from 14 to 40 months of age and were assessed with physical, psychological, and developmental tests twice over the next two years. Families also responded to questionnaires about children’s development and about various aspects of their home. The study included 10 adopted children and 19 similar children born to American families.

In general, the had significant deficits in growth, cognitive ability, and development compared to children of American descent. However, the differences were smaller among children from families with higher scores on cohesion, where help and support were provided to each other and expressiveness: families whose members are encouraged to express their feelings. Children had larger deficits if their families scored higher on conflict — an open expression of anger and aggression — and controlled — a family life followed by established rules and procedures.

The authors concluded that family cohesion and expressiveness could moderate the effects of pre-adoption adversity, while family conflict and adherence to norms could increase the risk of behavioral problems. The authors added that more studies are needed to verify their results.

The way families with same-sex parents resolve conflicts affects children

More information:
Margaret F. Keil et al, Environment and family development in children adopted from institutionalized care, Pediatric research (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s41390-020-01325-1

Citation: Open and Expressive Family Life Can Reduce the Effects of Social Deprivation of Adopted Children (2021, May 28) Retrieved May 29, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-05-family-life- social-deprivation-effects.html

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