Children who spend their first few years in institutions without affectionate care, sensory stimulation, or other bare necessities often can't form close relationships. Known as attachment disorder, this condition has attracted intense interest as more people adopt institutionalized youngsters from around the world.
Despite some highly publicized cases in which violent acts were attributed to attachment disorder, its features and causes remain controversial.
An ongoing study of children adopted from Romanian orphanages by British parents outlines a set of behaviors typical of the disorder. Neither defiance nor violence characterizes the group. The work confirms that severe deprivation lies at the core of attachment disorder but doesn't inevitably undermine social functioning, reports a team headed by psychologist Thomas G. O'Connor of the Institute of Psychiatry in London.