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From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development
the capacity of the adoptive family to provide for the special needs of the child and the availability of appropriate remedial treatment. Surprisingly little is known about post-adoption effects on the recovery of children from such neglectful early environments. As with any family of a child with special needs, however, the challenge for such families may tax their emotional and financial resources. This may be one reason why the recent work on Romanian adoptees has shown that persistent problems were more common for children when two or more were adopted simultaneously from the orphanage by the same family (Ames, 1997).
In contrast to the rapid recovery from gross cognitive and language deficits that is often seen in formerly institutionalized children, social and emotional development appears to be more compromised or more susceptible to long-term impacts (Ames, 1997; Hoksbergen, 1981; Rutter and the English and Romanian Adoptees [ERA] Study Team, 1998; Tizard and Rees, 1974; Verhulst et al., 1990, 1992). Specifically, children from the most depriving conditions, which often included illness, malnutrition, frequent relocations, and thus disruptions in care, appear to be at increased risk for enduring behavioral problems and difficulties in peer relationships that have been seen well into adolescence (Ames, 1997; Fisher et al., 1997; Hodges and Tizard, 1989b; Tizard and Hodges, 1978; Verhulst et al., 1992). Once again, however, many of the children, including some with the most depriving and adverse early backgrounds, do remarkably well when taken out of those circumstances and given the opportunity to develop in stable, loving, and economically resourceful families.
The natural experiment provided by orphanage-reared children also affords the opportunity to ask if children deprived of stable, consistent attachment relationships early in life remain capable of forming such relationships when opportunities arise later in childhood (see Thompson, in press(a)). In contrast to expectations from early attachment theory, the window for forming attachments appears to remain open for a rather long period, at least through the early childhood years, and possibly later. Children seem to be capable of forming their first attachments to parents even when adopted or fostered later in development, although it is unknown how long this adaptive capability endures. Nevertheless, the quality of these children's attachment relationships varies considerably. A substantial minority have difficulties establishing secure attachments with adoptive or foster parents (Chisholm, 1998; Hodges and Tizard, 1989b; O'Connor et al., 1999). Some also display quite shallow relations with others and reduced likelihood of forming intimate relationships with peers later in development (Hodges and Tizard, 1989b). This implicates the importance of stable relationships during infancy for organizing competencies that support the development of attachments that entail strong emotional commitments to specific partners (Gunnar, in press).