The current study compared behavioral and adrenocortical functioning of maltreated (N = 91) and comparably aged (1.5–3 years) institutionally-reared children soon after (1.5–2.5 months) placement in foster care or adoptive homes, respectively. Foster and adoptive parents reported on the children’s socioemotional competence and behavior problems, experimenters scored fear and positive affect to laboratory tasks, and diurnal cortisol measures were obtained. We sought to address whether these early contexts, characterized by different types of neglect and deprivation, have differential effects on young children’s development. We found little support for the argument that either context results in uniformly poorer functioning soon after removal from adversity. Maltreated children were less fearful and more positive when exposed to both positive and novel events than institutionally-reared children. However, maltreated children were reported to have more behavior problems than did institutionally-reared children, and institutionally-reared children showed more typical declines in cortisol throughout the day than the maltreated children. These findings increase our ability to construct more targeted and effective interventions for these populations.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors would like to thank the parents and children without whom this study would not have been possible. We would also like to thank the project staff at both site locations for their assistance with study coordination and data collection. This research was supported by NIMH P50MH078105 and R01HD075349 (to Megan Gunnar and Philip Fisher) and NIMH training grant T32 MH015755 (to Nicole Perry and Carrie DePasquale).
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was supported by NIMH P50MH078105 and R01HD075349 (to Megan Gunnar and Philip Fisher) and NIMH training grant T32 MH015755 (to Nicole Perry and Carrie DePasquale).
- HPA functioning
- early life adversity