High quality early caregiver-child interactions are essential

Harold Mandel's picture
A child

A new study shows that in children’s residential facilities kind and sensitive care-giving is vital for emotional and mental health just like this is important for kid's with families.

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Children initially raised in institutions are in need of tender loving care to develop well just like other children. Clearly having sensitive care-givers who treat these kids as if they are their own kids is helpful.

It is vital for the emotional and mental health of children in residential facilities to receive kind and sensitive care-giving

The University of Pittsburgh reports on a new study which shows that it is vital for the emotional and mental health of children in residential facilities to receive kind and sensitive care-giving. The potential emotional and mental health development issues which may develop from spending early years of the life of a child in an institution can be minimized with nurturing care-giving from just a few consistent people.

Infants and toddlers who receive daily contact from professionals who are responsive and warm manifest better cognitive, physical and social development. When these kids are placed in families they display less aggressive and defiant characteristics. They also display less externalizing behaviors.

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It has been noted that infants and toddlers who live in traditional institutions for extended periods are more likely to display internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems even after they are placed into families for several years. This new study had an objective to see whether positive interventions in child institutions would show an association with improved behavior in the kids after they made a transition into family care.

It is unfortunate that many institutionalized kids worldwide are raised in a regimented fashion

Robert B. McCall, who was one of the study’s lead researchers, has commented that it is unfortunate that many institutionalized kids worldwide are raised in a regimented fashion by a large number of people who give them simply the basics of care and support. This is done in a very businesslike manner with little or no emotional support. These kind of care-givers don't play with the kids and don't take the time to even hug them.

Chronic stress is produced in these kids from this typical neglectful institutional style of care-giving. This chronic stress leads to increased rates of deficient development and behavioral patterns. Such adverse outcomes are minimized with improved care-giver interactions with the children. The children with better care-giving are generally happier and more well adjusted.

Christina J. Groark, the lead researcher for this study, says this research shows the characteristics of typical family life are vital contributors for the development of infants and toddlers, even when these characteristics are implemented in an institution. She goes on to say that the quality and consistency of early caregiver-child interactions seem to be the most essential elements of childcare, whether or not the children live in an institution or with a family. This study was
conducted with Russian colleagues in kids raised in Russian Baby Homes.

This study has been published in the journal International Perspectives in Psychology: Research, Practice, Consultation. This study investigated whether interventions in Russian Baby Homes which promoted sensitive, warm and responsive caregiver-child interactions and relationships would be found to be associated with advantages in the behavior of those children years after they were transitioned to family care. It was observed that improved institutional care may have benefits in kids who are transitioned to families. Clearly kids generally respond well to warm nurturing in institutional and home settings.

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