III. Attachment and emotional development in institutional care: Characteristics and catch up

Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg*, Howard Steele, Charles H. Zeanah, Rifkat J. Muhamedrahimov, Panayiota Vorria, Natasha A. Dobrova-Krol, Miriam Steele, Marinus H. van Ijzendoorn, Femmie Juffer, Megan R. Gunnar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Attachment has been assessed in the extreme environment of orphanages, but an important issue to be addressed in this chapter is whether in addition to standard assessment procedures, such as the Strange Situation, the lack of a specific attachment in some institutionalized children should be taken into account given the limits to the development of stable relationships in institutionalized care. In addition, this chapter discusses disinhibited or indiscriminately friendly behavior that is often seen in institutionalized children. Enhanced caregiving quality alone appears to be insufficient to diminish indiscriminate behavior, at least in some children, as evidenced by the persistence of indiscriminate behavior in children adopted out of institutions into adoptive families. We suggest that the etiology and function of indiscriminate, "friendly" behavior may be different for institutionalized versus not-institutionalized children. In the first case it may reflect a distortion or disruption of early attachment relationships; in the latter case it is likely to result from the lack of expected input in the form of contingent interactions with a stable caregiver in early life. We try to delineate infant and caregiver characteristics that are associated with secure attachment in institutional settings, given the inevitable fact that large numbers of infants worldwide are being raised, and will be raised, in contexts of institutional care. We conclude that much further study is needed of the development of children's attachments following adoption out of an institutional setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-91
Number of pages30
JournalMonographs of the Society for Research in Child Development
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


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