A study in Romania finds that children abandoned at birth and placed in state-run institutions display marked advances on thinking and reasoning tests by age 4½, but only if moved into foster care. In contrast, abandoned kids who stay only in institutions experience declines on the same tests over time and many nearly qualify as mentally retarded by age 4½.
Psychologist Charles A. Nelson III of Children's Hospital Boston and his colleagues randomly assigned 136 Romanian orphans residing in any of six institutions either to stay in those settings or to receive foster care from families recruited and trained by the researchers. Until now, studies of institutionalized children have not been able to exclude the possibility that only the healthiest, smartest youngsters get adopted or put in foster care.
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