Bucharest Early Intervention Project This project examines the effects of intervention (in this case, foster care) on children who have been raised in orphanages.
EFFECTS OF EARLY EXPERIENCE ON BRAIN-BEHAVIORAL DEVELOPMENT
Several of our research projects examine the effects of early experiences on brain and behavioral development. Our most recent project in this vein is the Bucharest Early Intervention Project.
Many children raised in orphanages in Romania are at dramatically increased risk for a number of social and behavioral abnormalities such as disturbances of attachment, inattention/hyperactivity, externalizing behavior problems, and a syndrome that mimics autism.
This study compares children ranging in age from 3 to 30 months who are being raised in several orphanages in Bucharest, Romania, with one group of children of the same age removed from orphanages and placed into foster care, and another group of children of the same age who were raised in their home by their parents. By comparing children raised in a typical environment with children raised in orphanages (with a significant amount of social deprivation) and with children removed from the orphanage and then raised in a normal, foster care environment, this study seeks to answer some of the following questions:
- What are the brain changes that occur during the first few years of life that may influence the specific behavioral outcomes observed in children raised in orphanages?
- How do the experiences a child has during this time period influence the development of these brain changes?
- To what degree can early abnormalities be remediated by more favorable caregiving environments?
- Is there a specific time period during which intervention is most effective? Is there a time period after which intervention is less likely to be effective?
By seeking to ask these questions we hope to accomplish several things:
- Demonstrate that foster care, which currently does not exist in Romania outside this study, is a viable form of care and preferable to institutionalized care. Although this may seem like a common-sense conclusion, there are few scientific studies that demonstrate this, and institutionalization has been a historically preferred form of care in Romania.
- Identify the impact of early social deprivation on the brain, particularly in the context of social and emotional development
- Demonstrate the effects of the timing of intervention on developmental outcomes.
We hope to compare this study to other ongoing Network studies examining the effects on neural mechanisms of deprivation and neglect.