PSYCH3: Rutter’s Study on Romanian Orphans Romanian Orphans

Rutter’s Study on Romanian Orphans

Romanian Orphans:

In 1989 the Ceausescu regime was overthrown and it was found that there were between 100 to 300 thousand school-aged children in orphanages, many of whom had suffered sever emotional and physical deprivation.

Rutter (WRONGER) did a study on these children who had been adopted by Westerners after having lived with either a sense of deprivation or privation. Initial findings showed that the children had poor health (they were malnourished and had infectious diseases). They also had behaviour issues such as temper tantrums, excessive rocking, insomnia and indiscriminate friendliness.

111 children adopted younger than 2 years old from Romania to England were compared with 52 children of similar ages adopted within England. Rutter found that the Romanian children had poor physical health and a mean IQ of 63 (when adopted). When these children were assessed again it was found that while 51% of them were below the third percentile in weight at the age of 2, at the age of four this had gone down to 2%. Their IQ’s were also assessed again and it was found that the average for those adopted before the age of 6 months had gone from 63 to 107 in the space of two years, it had only gone from 45 to 90 for those adopted after the age of 6 months.

Rutter also studied the issues relating to attachment and did not find the same positive findings. Some of the Romanian children still continued to experience serious behavioural problems both in general and when it came to the issue of forming a bond with their adoptive parents.

Another study conducted in Canada looked at similar Romanian orphans adopted by Canadian families. This study involved three separate groups of children:

  1. Canadian children who had not been adopted.
  2. A group of Romanian children whose median age was 18 ½ months
  3. And a group of Romanian children who were all adopted before they reached four months old

The researchers found no difference in the attachments formed by children in groups 1 and 3. Group 2 however had attachment difficulties although most formed attachments with their adoptive parents eventually.

The conclusion was made that the longer children are institutionalised, the harder it becomes for them to form attachments. Scribanu (SCRUB-ARE-YOU) theorised that for every three months in an orphanage, a child will lose one month of development.

Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg carried out experiments on the topic of attachment all around the globe and found the results would often follow the same patter, and the same three basic patterns

Summarising attachment:

Van Ijzendoorn summarised his findings from his dozens of studies under four headings:

  • UNIVERSALITY HYPOTHESIS In all cultures, a child will bond with one or more caregivers.
  • NORMATIVITY HYPOTHESIS – Around 70% of children are ‘securely attached’ (Ainsworth), the rest are insecurely attached. Ijzendoorn also identified three typical characteristics of a child who has developed an insecure attachment:

    – Avoidant

    – Ambivalent

    – Disorganised


  • SENSITIVITY HYPOTHESIS– The degree of how secure a bond is between a child and a caregiver is all depends on how caring, sensitive and responsive said caregiver is.
  • COMPETENCE HYPOTHESIS – The different levels of attachment show correlation with the different levels of social competence in developing children.

    E.G. A child who has developed a secure bond with their caregiver is more likely to interact well with others.

(CHILD INSPECTOR) Holmes theorised a further three Hypotheses:

  • CONTINUITY HYPOTHESIS– The patterns of attachment will also have a significant impact on social sills and mental representations in adulthood. For instance a securely attached but absent carer, will have a dramatically negative impact on a child’s development.
  • MENTALISATION HYPOTHESIS – A secure attachment is based on and leads to the ability to reflect on one’s own state of mind as well as others (a securely attached child is more likely to be able to show empathy).
  • NARRATIVE COMPETENCE HYPOTHESIS– They way adults speak of relationships and mental pain often reflects the type of attachment they held with their own caregivers as a child.