Developmental Differences of children raised in orphanages, adoptive Families and biological families in Lusaka, Zambia
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Background: The aim of this study was to investigate the developmental differences that arise from different patterns of child care. The influence of different patterns of care was investigated on the caregiving environment, security of attachment, maternal sensitivity, cognitive development and physical growth.Sample: The sample consisted of three groups of children from different types of caring environment with 8 children per group: a family comprising the child's biological parents, an adoptive family and an orphanage. The children were matched for age and gender. The age of the participants ranged from 3 years, 7 months to 5 years, 4 months. The mean age for all participants was 4 years, 9 months. All the families and the orphanage were from the medium density residential areas. Method: The child's home was assessed using the HOME and the HEPA scales. The strange situation procedure was used for determining security of attachment. For Sensitivity, the Emotional Availability Scale was used by having the caregiver- child dyad play and interact without any toys. For cognitive development, two subtests from the SON-R were used; the categories for reasoning and pattens for performance. For physical growth, the weight, height and head circumference indices of physical development were measured.Results: There was an organized distribution of secure and insecure attachment styles in the sample. Only the orphanage group showed disorganized attachment. The orphanage caregivers showed lower levels of sensitivity compared to their counterparts. Home environment scale showed significant differences between the orphanage group and both the family reared groups but no significant differences between the biological and adoptive family reared groups. On the cognitive tests, differences were found between the orphanage and the family reared children. The orphanage children lagged behind the family reared children in both subtests. For physical growth, the orphanage children lagged behind the family reared groups on the body mass index and head circumference. The analysis found no significant effects of age and gender.Conclusion: Results showed that the orphanage children lagged behind their age matched peers living in a family setup. Based on these findings, it is recommended that orphaned children should be raised in a family setup rather than an orphanage: whenever possible such children should be placed with their extended family and placement in an orphanage should indeed be the last option. The standards and condition of orphanages should be improved to foster near normal developmental trajectory for these children.