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Developmental Catch-up, and Deficit, Following Adoption after Severe Global Early Privation

  • Michael Rutter (a1)


The extent of developmental deficit and catch-up following adoption after severe global early privation was examined at 4 years in a sample of 111 Romanian children who came to the U.K. before the age of 2 years, and compared with respect to their functioning at the same age to a sample of 52 U.K. adopted children placed before the age of 6 months. The measures at 4 years included height, head circumference, and general cognitive level (assessed on both the McCarthy and Denver Scales). The children from Romania were severely developmentally impaired at the time of U.K. entry, with about half below the third percentile on height, on weight, on head circumference, and on developmental quotient. Many were also in a poor physical state with recurrent intestinal and respiratory infections. The catch-up in both physical growth and cognitive level appeared nearly complete at 4 years for those children who came to the U.K. before the age of 6 months, despite the fact that their background prior to U.K. entry was similar to the children who came to the U.K. when older. The developmental catch-up was also impressive, but not complete, in those placed after 6 months of age. The mean McCarthy General Cognitive Index was 92 compared with 109 for the within-U.K. adoptees. The strongest predictor of level of cognitive functioning at 4 years was the children's age at entry to the U.K. It was concluded that the remaining cognitive deficit was likely to be a consequence of gross early privation, with psychological privation probably more important than nutritional privation. A further follow-up at age 6 years will determine whether there is continuing recovery after 4 years.


Corresponding author

Requests for reprints to: Professor Michael Rutter, MRC Child Psychiatry Unit, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London SE5 8AF, U.K.



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