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Effect of foster care on language learning at eight years: Findings from the Bucharest Early Intervention Project*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 May 2012

University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital Boston
University of Maryland
Tulane University Medical School
Address for correspondence: Jennifer Windsor, Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences, 115 Shevlin Hall, University of Minnesota, 164 Pillsbury Drive S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55455. e-mail:


This study reports on language outcomes at eight years from the Bucharest Early Intervention Project, a randomized controlled study of foster care. We previously have shown that children placed in foster care by age two have substantially stronger preschool language outcomes than children placed later and children remaining in institutional care. One hundred and five children participated in the current study, fifty-four originally assigned to foster care and fifty-one to continued institutional care. Even though current placements varied, children originally in foster care had longer sentences and stronger sentence repetition and written word identification. Children placed in foster care by age two had significant advantages in word identification and nonword repetition; children placed by age 1 ; 3 performed equivalently to community peers. The results show the continuing adverse effects of early poor institutional care on later language development and the key importance of age of placement in a more optimal environment.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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The Bucharest Early Intervention Project (BEIP) was funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Early Experience and Brain Development (Charles A. Nelson, Network Chair). We are grateful to Hermi R. Woodward and the dedicated BEIP research staff. In particular, we thank Nicoletta Corlan, Erika Hoyt, Cornelia Iucha, Nadia Radu and Anca Radulescu for their assistance with task development and data collection.



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