Study shows children who grow in children homes have low IQs and stunted growth

Institutionalised children are far more physically stunted. [iStockphoto]

Numerous global studies have shown most children who grew up in children's homes and orphanages suffer stunted growth, have low Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and experience abnormal social development.

The Romanian scientific study titled Bucharest Early Intervention Programme found out that institutionalised children were far more physically stunted compared with children raised in their biological families or in foster families.

The study also found out that for every 2.6 months spent in a Romanian orphanage, a child falls behind one month of normal growth with significantly lower IQs and levels of brain activity.

The study, which compared the developmental capacities of children raised in large-scale institutions with non-institutionalised and fostered children, also suggests that children below the age of three years are particularly more vulnerable.

Further, the study revealed that “the children in institutions were far more likely to have social and behavioural abnormalities such as disturbances and delays in social and emotional development, aggressive behaviour problems, inattention and hyperactivity, and a syndrome that mimics autism.”

The study sampled random 208 children with a mean age of 22 months spread across three care arrangements in Romania.

Institutionalised children are far more physically stunted. [iStockphoto]

It indicates that lack of human eye contact, visual and physical stimulation means that essential neurological processes within the brain are sometimes never triggered, causing brain stunting and low IQs.

“The lack of toys, play facilities and developmental education also leaves many children with reduced motor skills and language abilities. Physical stunting is the result of poor nutrition and sickness caused by overcrowding, poor hygiene and a lack of access to medical care,” reads the report.

Further, it reads: “Even well-run care institutions can have negative developmental effects on children. For example, the distress caused by being separated from parents and siblings can leave children with lasting psychological and behavioural problems.”

The poor caregiver-to-child ratio in many institutions was also found to have an effect on the way staff respond to children’s needs, hence denying them the love, attention, and consistent care required for growth.

It was also found that “the closed and often isolated nature of institutional care, together with the fact that many resident children are unaware of their rights and are powerless to defend themselves, make institutionalised children significantly more vulnerable to violence and abuse.”

By 2032, all children in Kenya's CCI’s will have gotten their families or reintegrated with the communities. [iStockphoto]

However, the report indicates that it is difficult to assess the scale and nature of violence in institutional care because it is largely hidden.

Another Russian study shows that care leavers are more likely to experience mental health problems, struggle to form healthy relationships and adapt to the demands of independent living.

The social consequences found in children raised in institutions were found to have created ‘lost generations’ of young people who are unable to participate fully in society on evidence that many children who enter institutional care at a young age are physically, socially and emotionally underdeveloped.

The lack of life options available to children leaving long-term institutional care, in particular, makes them more vulnerable to criminal behaviour as a means of survival.

They are also more likely to develop anti-social behaviour, and attachment disorders, and to struggle with positive parenting.

According to the Romanian report, care leavers are especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse “as they are less aware of their rights and accustomed to following instructions without question.”

“They may be less able to find work or to develop social relationships. The harm caused to children from spending substantial parts of their childhood in care inevitably has consequences for society as a whole,” reads the report.