Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared.
Behavioral and emotional symptoms of post-institutionalized children in middle childhood
Article first published online: 22 JUL 2010
© 2010 The Authors. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. © 2010 Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Volume 52, Issue 1, pages 56–63, January 2011
How to Cite
Wiik, K. L., Loman, M. M., Van Ryzin, M. J., Armstrong, J. M., Essex, M. J., Pollak, S. D. and Gunnar, M. R. (2011), Behavioral and emotional symptoms of post-institutionalized children in middle childhood. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 52: 56–63. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2010.02294.x
- Issue published online: 8 DEC 2010
- Article first published online: 22 JUL 2010
- Manuscript accepted 17 May 2010
- International adoption;
- institutional care;
- mental health
Background: Experience in institutional/orphanage care has been linked to increased mental health problems. Research suggests that children adopted from institutions experience specific difficulties related to inattention/overactivity. Evidence of internalizing and conduct problems relative to non-adopted peers has been found in early childhood and early adolescence, but problems may not differ from other adopted children. This study clarifies the understanding of behavioral and emotional symptoms of post-institutionalized (PI) children during middle childhood.
Methods: Eight- to eleven-year-old PI children (n = 68) and two comparison groups, children internationally adopted from foster care (n = 74) and non-adopted children (n = 76), and their parents completed the MacArthur Health and Behavior Questionnaire related to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), externalizing, and internalizing symptoms. Group means for symptom level and number of children with symptoms above clinical cutoffs were compared.
Results: PI children displayed an increased level of ADHD symptoms per parent report. PI child and parent report indicated a higher number of PI children above clinical ADHD cutoff. Both groups of internationally adopted (IA) children had higher levels of externalizing symptoms relative to non-adopted children, with parent report indicating higher numbers of IA children above the externalizing clinical threshold. Informants differed in their report of internalizing symptoms. Parents indicated that both IA groups displayed increased internalizing symptom levels and greater numbers above clinical threshold; however, children reported this to be true only for the PI group.
Conclusions: PI children differ from non-adopted peers across symptom domains in middle childhood. Whether these concerns were more broadly associated with international adoption rather than institutional care depended on symptom domain and informant. An understanding of this variability may be beneficial for treatment and intervention.