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Behavior Problems

Behavior problems have also been examined in recent studies of institutionalized children. These studies have found that orphanage children display rather unique behavior problems when compared with either home-reared nonadopted children or within country-adoptees.

Ames and her colleagues attribute most of the behavior problems of orphanage children to their orphanage experience given that early-adopted children who were adopted before two months of age did not appear different from Canadian-born children in any problem area (Ames 1997; Fisher et al. 1997). The most troublesome problems for adoptive parents were in the areas of eating, sleeping, stereotyped behavior, and sibling and peer relationships. Eleven months postadoption, one-third of orphanage children in their sample would not eat solid food or ate too much, both behaviors that were likely the result of orphanage experience. Although orphanage children did not differ from Canadian-born children in the number of sleeping problems they had, the kind of sleeping problems that adoptive parents experienced with their orphanage children differed. The sleeping problem of most concern to adoptive parents was the fact that children would not signal when they were awake, another behavior that was likely the result of institutionalization.

Stereotyped behavior concerned adoptive parents. The majority of orphanage children (84%) displayed stereotyped behavior, mostly in the form of rocking. Three years after adoption adoptive parents reported improvements in all behavior areas. At this time orphanage children did not look different from Canadian-born and early-adopted children in eating problems, sleeping problems, or sibling problems. However, they still displayed more stereotyped behavior than children in the other two groups, although this behavior had improved as well from Time 1 to Time 2. Clearly these recent results suggest that much of the difficulties linked to orphanage experience are over-come when children's environments improve.

Children's behavior problems were also examined using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), a standardized behavior problem questionnaire developed by Thomas Achenbach, Craig Edelbrook, and Catherine Howell (1987). Romanian orphanage children scored significantly higher on the CBCL than did Canadian-born or early-adopted children, and a large percentage of orphanage children scored above the clinical cut-off for the CBCL (Fisher et al. 1997). This finding is consistent with work in a Greek residential group care facility with nine-year-old children (Vorria et al. 1998). In comparing residential group care children to children reared in two-parent families Panyiota Vorria and colleagues (1998) found that the group care children were more inattentive, passive, and participated less in group activities at school than did their family-reared peers. In general, institution-reared children typically display more behavior problems than home-reared children.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaPregnancy & ParenthoodOrphans - Early Literature On Institutionalization, Later Deprivation Studies, Intellectual Development, Behavior Problems, Social-emotional Development