Washington D.C. [USA], Oct. 8 : A recent research shows that care giving from a few consistent individuals helps to minimize the potential emotional and mental-health development issues that can arise from spending the early years of a child's life in an institution.
Within such facilities, infants and toddlers reared in daily contact with responsive and warm professionals display better physical, cognitive, and social development.
After they are placed into families, they have less aggressive and defiant tendencies and show fewer externalizing behaviors.
The study acknowledges that infants and toddlers who reside in traditional institutions for extended periods are more likely to exhibit internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems even after being placed into families for some years.
The study also determines whether positive interventions in these institutions would be associated with improvements in their behavior after transitioning into family care.
One of the study's lead researchers Robert B. McCall said, "Unfortunately, many children around the world are reared in a regimented fashion by a large number of individuals who provide only the basics of care and support in a businesslike fashion with very little else--no response to crying, no conversation, no play, no hugs." Adding, "The typical neglectful institutional method minimizes sensitive and responsive caregiver-child relationships and produces chronic stress, which leads to higher rates of deficient development and behavioral patterns.
Conversely, improved caregiver-child interactions and relationships might be expected to minimize such madverse outcomes, leading to happier and more well adjusted children.
We believe these findings are potentially significant to professionals seeking to improve alternative care facilities and train their staff to care for the children in their care." The research showed that the characteristics of typical family life are important contributors to the development of infants and toddlers, even when implemented in an institution.
Lead researcher Christina J. Groark said, "The quality and consistency of early caregiver-child interactions appear to be the most important elements of childcare, regardless of whether the children live in an institution or a family." Researchers followed 135 children who had spent at least three months in one of the three institutions.
Participating children departed for domestic families either during the study or up to six years later and resided in those families for at least one year.
The children were between 18 months and ten years of age. For the study, a childcare home was allowed to conduct business practices as usual, representative of the status quo while the other two were asked to install specific childcare interventions.
Staff members within the second facility were instructed to interact with the children in a "parent-like" manner, expressing warm, caring and sensitive mannerisms, the same as they would with their own children.
The third institution was asked to implement the same parent-like mannerism intervention as well as a series of caregiver-child policy changes.
These changes included cutting the number of different caregivers the child experienced regularly and having those same one or two professionals consistently playing a role in the child's daily life.
In essence, the policy changes implemented in the second and third facilities looked to mimic parent-child relations as much as possible; in addition, the third Baby Home was made more "family-like" in operation.
When transferred into domestic families, researchers found that the parents of children from the intervention-implemented institutions rated them as being less indiscriminately friendly with strangers and that the children displayed fewer incidences of aggressive behavior, especially when compared to children who experienced longer stints in the status quo group home.
The study was published in International Perspectives in Psychology..