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Harsh conditions in childhood have long-term effects

Kids from Romanian orphanage also had lower volumes of gray matter

5:03pm, February 18, 2012

VANCOUVER — Living in harsh conditions in an orphanage early in life has long-lasting consequences for a child’s social skills, a new study finds.

Children who spent their first two years in Romanian orphanages behaved abnormally in social interactions with other children, even years after leaving the institution. Life in an orphanage was also linked to brain abnormalities, Charles Nelson of Harvard Medical School reported February 17 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“I think this work nails the really important issues in trying to understand the effects of early life experiences,” said psychologist Janet Werker of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

For more than a decade, Nelson and colleagues have followed 136 children who were abandoned at birth and placed in orphanages in Bucharest, Romania — Spartan environments where the children spent hours staring at a whit

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