Foster Infants Retain Security Option. (Behavior)

Science News, December 15, 2001 | Go to article overview

Foster Infants Retain Security Option. (Behavior)


Neglected and abused infants shuttled from one foster-care setting to another have every reason to feel anxious and threatened in the presence of caregivers. However, if placed with a nurturing foster mother as late as age 1 1/2, children with such backgrounds usually develop a secure relationship with her in a matter of months, a new study suggests.

Surprisingly, 1-1/2-year-olds responded as well and as quickly to a nurturing foster mother as did much younger infants, who had experienced less neglect and fewer disrupted foster placements, say psychologist Mary Dozier of the University of Delaware in Newark and her coworkers.

"Even though late-placed foster infants initially push their caregivers away, they're capable of forming secure attachments [with a nurturing foster parent]," Dozier's group concludes in the September/October CHILD DEVELOPMENT.

In related research, children adopted by age 2 fare better emotionally and academically than those adopted at later ages, regardless of any deprivations suffered before the adoption (SN: 8/13/94, p. 104). Scientists have yet to track the long-term emotional development of infants placed with foster parents at various ages.

Dozier and her colleagues studied 50 infants--32 black, 14 white, and 4 Hispanic--and their foster mothers. Infants had been placed with these caregivers between birth and 20 months of age. They began receiving foster care after their biological parents had neglected, abandoned, or abused them. …

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