Chapter 2. Children’s cognitive development after adoption

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This chapter provides an overview of research on the cognitive development of adopted children, focusing on IQ scores, school achievement and executive functioning. Because of the deprivation many adoptees experience prior to adoption, it might be expected that their cognitive development is at higher risk compared to non-adopted children. However, the question arises whether children who experience a more nurturing and more stimulating environment after early deprivation show a catch-up in development. In this chapter, research on three different types of ‘atypical’ rearing conditions is discussed, that is institutional care, foster care and adoptive families. We first present the results of longitudinal studies, or ‘natural’ experiments, in which the development of internationally adopted children is studied over several years. Second, we discuss outcomes of an experimental study (the Bucharest Early Intervention Project), that studied the effects of placement in foster care on children’s development. Finally, a series of meta-analyses (comparing adoptees with their environmental peers and with peers who were left behind) is presented in which the effects of adoption on cognitive development are examined. In sum, the studies reported in this chapter provide support for the notion that adoption is a positive intervention fostering the cognitive development of adoptees.


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