The science of early adversity: is there a role for large institutions in the care of vulnerable children?

New study based on scientific evidence on the developmental effects of early institutional care

"The science of early adversity: is there a role for large institutions in the care of vulnerable children?" is the tile of a study recently published by Anne E Berens, from Harvard Medical School, and Charles A Nelson, from Harvard Center on the Developing Child. In this study, the authors discuss the worldwide phenomenon of child institutionalisation as a social strategy to raise children lacking access to safe family care.

With a comprehensive search strategy, the study assess scientific evidence on the developmental effects of early institutional care. Study's data suggest that there might be particular windows of time in early childhood when the effects of intervention are most substantial, and after which deficits become increasingly intractable.

Study's findings have implications for policy and practice that aim to care for vulnerable children worldwide while protecting them from the worst forms of institutionalisation, authors say.

After analysing evidence about the often devastating developmental consequences of institutionalisation in early childhood, the study concludes that changes in policy will require difficult tasks such as dismantling economically and socially entrenched structures, and building viable alternatives. It highlights that, with a robust evidence base to guide transformations, political will and social organisation are now needed to overcome remaining barriers to deinstitutionalisation.

Study available here.