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Behavior problems in postinstitutionalized internationally adopted children


Using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), the rate and type of behavior problems associated with being reared in an institution prior to adoption were examined in 1,948, 4- through 18-year-old internationally adopted children, 899 of whom had experienced prolonged institutional care prior to adoption. The children's adoptions were decreed between 1990 and 1998 in Minnesota. Binomial logistic regression analyses revealed that early institutional rearing was associated with increased rates of attention and social problems, but not problems in either the internalizing or externalizing domains. Independent of institutional history, children who were adopted ≥24 months had higher rates of behavior problems across many CBCL scales, including internalizing and externalizing problems. In general, time in the adoptive home, which also reflected age at testing, was positively associated with rates of problem behavior. Thus, there was little evidence that the likelihood of behavior problems wane with time postadoption. Finally, children adopted from Russia/Eastern Europe appeared at greater risk of developing behavior problems in several domains compared to children adopted from other areas of the world.Members of the International Adoption Project (IAP) Team, all of whom are from the University of Minnesota, are H. Grotevant (Family Social Science); R. Lee (Psychology); W. Hellerstedt (Epidemiology); N. Madsen and M. Bale (Institute of Child Development); and D. Johnson, K. Dole, and S. Iverson (Pediatrics). This research was supported by an NIMH grant (MH59848) and K05 award (MH66208) to M. R. Gunnar. The authors thank the IAP parent board, the Minnesota Adoption Unit and its director, Robert DeNardo, and the adoption agencies that encouraged this work: Children's Home Society, Lutheran Social Services, Crossroads, Hope International, Bethany International, Child Link International, European Children Adoption Services, International Adoption Services, Great Wall China Adoption, and New Horizons. Special thanks are due to the many parents who completed the IAP survey.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Megan R. Gunnar, Institute of Child Development, 51 East River Road, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455; E-mail:
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Development and Psychopathology
  • ISSN: 0954-5794
  • EISSN: 1469-2198
  • URL: /core/journals/development-and-psychopathology
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