Sensory processing in internationally adopted, post-institutionalized children

Julia Wilbarger, Megan Gunnar, Mary Schneider, Seth Pollak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Background/Methods: Sensory processing capacities of 8-12-year-old internationally adopted (IA) children who experienced prolonged institutional care (> 12 months with 75% of pre-adoption lives in institutional care) prior to adoption into family environments (PI) were compared to a group of IA children who were adopted early (< 8 months) predominantly from foster care with little or no institutional experience (EA/FC) and another group of non-adopted (NA) children raised by their birth parents in the United States. All children had estimated IQs within the normal range and did not evidence major neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g., cerebral palsy, fetal alcohol syndrome, Down's syndrome). Sensory processing was evaluated with a commonly used parent-report measure and a laboratory assessment. Results: Children who had experienced prolonged institutionalization showed higher levels of reactivity to sensation and displayed both more aversion and approach to sensory stimuli than the other groups. The comparison groups (EA/FC & NA) did not differ on any of the sensory processing measures. Conclusions: These results suggest that early institutional rearing which typically involves both sensory and social deprivation is associated with problems in sensory modulation capacities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1105-1114
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Institutional care
  • early deprivation
  • international adoption
  • sensory processing


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