Critical Periods for Cognitive Development: A Study on the Impact of Child Institutionalization

Derek Bownd reviews an ethically-loaded study by Nelson et al. comparing the cognitive development of abandoned children reared in institutions to abandoned children raised in institutions but then moved to foster care.

It has long been known that a number of cognitive abilities in humans and nonhumans display a critical period in early development. That is, there is a period during which the developing organism can readily develop a certain cognitive ability (e.g., language, vision), but if the organism does not get the critical input during this period (i.e., exposure to linguistic communication or normal visual stimulation), they will never develop the cognitive ability anywhere even remotely close to that of a nondeprived normal individual.

In the current study  Nelson et al. compared abandoned children reared in an institution to children initially placed in an insitution but then moved to foster care. Young children were randomly assigned to continued institutional care or to placement in foster care. Their cognitive development was tracked through 54 months of age. The outcomes: children that remained in institutions exhibited cognitive development well below that of never-institutionalized and initially institutionalized children that were transfered to foster homes. The differences between groups in this study was greater for those children placed in foster homes earlier.

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One Response to “Critical Periods for Cognitive Development: A Study on the Impact of Child Institutionalization”
  1. Excellent site, keep up the good work

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