Institutional care and iron deficiency increase ADHD symptomology and lower IQ 2.5-5 years post-adoption

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Increased ADHD symptomology and lower IQ have been reported in internationally adopted (IA) children compared to non-adopted peers (Hostinar, Stellern, Schaefer, Carlson & Gunnar, 2012; Kreppner, O'Connor & Rutter, 2001). However, it is unclear whether these outcomes are due to institutional deprivation specifically or to co-occurring micronutrient deficiencies that disrupt brain development (Fuglestad, Rao & Georgieff, 2008b). In this study, IA children were compared to children raised in their biological families to examine differences in ADHD symptomology and IQ 2.5-5 years post-adoption and to assess the contributions of iron deficiency (ID) and duration of deprivation to these cognitive outcomes. ADHD symptoms (parent- and experimenter-reported) and IQ were evaluated in 88 IA (M = 62.1 months, SD = 2.4) and 35 non-adopted children (M = 61.4 months, SD = 1.6). IA children were assessed 29-64 months post-adoption (M = 41.9 months, SD = 10.2). ID was assessed during the initial post-adoption medical visit in 69 children, and children were classified into four groups by iron status, ranging from normal to ID anemia (most severe). IA children had greater ADHD symptomology, p < .01, and lower IQ, p = .001, than non-adopted children. Within the IA group, children with more severe ID at adoption had greater ADHD symptomology, r(69) = 0.40, p = .001, and lower IQ, r(68) = -0.28, p < .05. Duration of institutional care was positively correlated with ADHD symptoms, r(86) = .28, p < .01, but not IQ, r(85) = -.08, p = .52. Longitudinal results indicate improvement in IQ from 12 months post-adoption to age 5 for children with greater ID severity at adoption and longer duration of institutional care but no improvement in ADHD symptoms. These results signify continuing effects of early deprivation and ID on ADHD symptoms and IQ years after adoption. A video abstract of this article can be viewed at http //

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)484-494
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2015

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