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Postadoption parenting and socioemotional development in postinstitutionalized children

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 January 2012

Melissa C. Garvin*
Sonoma State University
Amanda R. Tarullo
Boston University
Mark Van Ryzin
Oregon Social Learning Center
Megan R. Gunnar
University of Minnesota
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Melissa Garvin, Psychology Department, Sonoma State University, 1801 East Cotati Avenue, Rohnert Park, CA 94928; E-mail:


Children adopted from institutions (e.g., orphanages) overseas are at increased risk of disturbances in social relationships and social understanding. Not all postinstitutionalized children exhibit these problems, although factors like the severity of deprivation and duration of deprivation increase their risk. To date, few studies have examined whether postadoption parenting might moderate the impact of early adverse care. Three groups were studied: postinstitutionalized and foster care children both adopted internationally and nonadopted children reared in their families of origin. The Emotional Availability (EA) Scales were assessed at 18 months in parent–child dyads. Parent emotional availability was found to predict two aspects of social functioning shown in previous studies to be impaired in postinstitutionalized children. Specifically, EA positively correlated with emotion understanding at 36 months; in interaction with initiation of joint attention at 18 months and group, it predicted indiscriminate friendliness as scored from a parent attachment interview at 30 months. Among the postinstitutionalized children but not among the children in other groups, higher EA scores reduced the negative association between initiation of joint attention and indiscriminate friendliness, thus suggesting that parenting quality may moderate the effects of early institutional deprivation.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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