Social skills in children adopted from socially-emotionally depriving institutions
Adopt Q
; doi:

Investigators at the University of Pittsburgh sought to assess the social skills of post-institutionalized (PI) children to determine whether age at adoption, age at assessment, and gender impacted outcomes. Parents of children adopted through an agency specializing in the placement of Russian children with families in the United States were sent surveys at 4 different times during a 10-year period. In addition to demographic and birth information included in the surveys, parents were asked to assess social skills in their adopted child using the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS). The SSRS measures social competence and adaptive functioning, and a higher score indicates better social skills. Two versions of the SSRS were used depending on the age of the participant at the time of completion (Elementary for ages 5–12 years, and Secondary for ages 13–18 years). Data on children were included in the study if they had complete data on the SSRS, had been in their adoptive homes for at least 1 year, and had been adopted prior to any social-emotional intervention program at their institution. Participants were excluded if parents reported functional deficits such as autism or severe intellectual impairment. ANOVA analyses were used to compare SSRS scores by age of adoption (<18 months vs ≥18 months), age at evaluation (elementary vs secondary school age), and gender.

Of the 3,500 surveys sent to parents, 42% were returned and data on 341 PI adoptees, 214 children and 127 adolescents, were included in the final analysis. The majority of participants were adopted from Russia (n = 293, 86%) with other participants adopted from Belarus (n = 34), Uzbekistan (n = 9), or other Eastern European countries (n = 5). Median age at adoption was 11.48 months for those completing the Elementary version of the SSRS and 13.50 months for those completing the Secondary version.

Participants adopted before 18 months of age had significantly higher scores on the SSRS than those adopted after 18 months of age. SSRS scores were also significantly higher in elementary school-aged children than in older participants. Girls, particularly those adopted at a later age, had significantly worse SSRS scores than boys.

The authors conclude that children adopted from socially-emotionally depriving institutions may exhibit poor social skills in adolescence, particularly if they were adopted after 18 months of age and are female.

Dr Todd has disclosed no financial relationship relevant to this commentary. This commentary does not contain a discussion of an unapproved/investigative use of a commercial product/device.

Growth restriction,1–3  developmental delay,4,5  poor cognitive development,3,4  and poor language skills3,5  are increasingly recognized among PI young children. (See AAP Grand Rounds, February 2016;35[2]:20.) Using an adoptive parent-completed assessment tool, this study identifies poor social skills as another adverse outcome for children who...

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