Magazine article Science News

Orphanages Improve Image in Child Care

Magazine article Science News

Orphanages Improve Image in Child Care

Article excerpt

As an old blues song intones, "Motherless children have a hard time, when their mother is gone." For more than 50 years, child development research has expanded on that premise. Studies have concluded that psychological and behavioral problems frequently plague youngsters who grow up in institutional settings without a parent's love and guidance.

But new evidence out of war-weary Africa offers a counterpoint to this bleak outlook. Kids consigned to either of two orphanages early in their lives exhibited good emotional health and social adjustment as they neared adolescence, according to a report in the October American Journal of Psychiatry.

Moreover, children did best in an orphanage in which the entire staff helped to make decisions and in which children were encouraged to develop lasting relationships with staff members, contend psychiatrist Peter H. Wolff of Children's Hospital in Boston and Gebremeskel Fesseha, an educator and researcher living in Asmara, Eritrea.

"The findings challenge the conclusion that orphanages are breeding grounds of psychopathology and must be avoided at all costs," Wolff and Fesseha say.

Eritrea, located in eastern Africa, recently concluded a 30-year war with neighboring Ethiopia. The war created a large population of Eritrean children who have either no parents or a living parent who can't support them.

The researchers compared two Eritrean orphanages, one housing 450 children in a city and the other accommodating 200 children in a rural area. …

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