Caregiver-Child Interaction in Post-Institutional Families Depending on the Type of Baby Home Caregiving Environment and Time in the Family



Background. To date there is a lack of information in the scientific literature on the influence of children's early institutionalization experience on their interaction with caregivers after their placement in foster care. In order to develop effective early support programs for children and parents in substitute families, it is important to understand the specifics of their interaction, including in connection with children's early experience of interaction with caregivers in baby home and the duration of their living in the substitute family. Objective. The study was aimed to investigate the characteristics of interaction of post–institutional parents and children with the experience of living in the baby home (BH) after implementation of changes in the socio–emotional caregiving environment (T+SC) and in a baby home with no intervention (NoI) and care as usual. Participants. A total of 18 couples of adults with children from NoI (mean age of children M = 40.7; SD = 20.3 months; 9 boys; mean age of caregivers M=43; SD=7,6) and 42 couples with children from T+SC (mean age M = 38,6; SD = 20 months; 21 boys; mean age of caregivers M=43,9; SD=8,8). Study design. Interaction was assessed at 3 stages (in BH before transition to family; <24 months in a post–institutional family (PI family); 25–48 months in the PI family). Measurements. Video recordings of free play of dyads were analyzed using the PCERA method (The Parent – Child Early Relational Assessment, R. Clark) to assess caregiver–child interaction. Results. The results indicate higher interaction quality in dyads with children who have experience of living in T+SC baby home, compared with children brought up in NoI baby home. In the first 24 months after the transfer of children to post–institutional families (PI) from the T+SC baby home, the quality of interaction between children and parents in the PI families is lower than at the assessment of children and caregivers in the T+SC baby home. An indicator of interaction on the part of children and the indicator of interaction in dyads are higher in the T+SC group then in NoI group after two years of children living in the PI families. Conclusions. These results confirm that stable and sensitive socio–emotional early environment (in T+SC) is crucial for establishing relationships and interacting with close adults in a new family. Low quality of caregiver-child interaction – such as low level of sensitivity, involvement and predictability on the part of substitute parents, the lack of reciprocity and regulation of interaction in dyads during the first two years of living in the PI family, as well as low emotional stability and unwillingness to cooperate in children from NoI BH after two years of living in the PI family – is discussed in the terms of need for evidence–based psychological follow–up programs for the PI families with focus on the caregiver–child interaction.

General Information

Keywords: children, early childhood, institutionalization experience, post–institutional family, caregiver–child interaction

Journal rubric: Empirical Researches

Article type: scientific article


Funding. The reported study was funded by Russian Science Foundation (RSF), project number 22–28–00626: «Caregiver-child interaction and theory of mind in children with early institutionalization experiences living in substitute families».

Received: 09.06.2023


For citation: Mukhamedrahimov R.Z., Shabalina E.V. Caregiver-Child Interaction in Post-Institutional Families Depending on the Type of Baby Home Caregiving Environment and Time in the Family. Konsul'tativnaya psikhologiya i psikhoterapiya = Counseling Psychology and Psychotherapy, 2023. Vol. 31, no. 4, pp. 65–85. DOI: 10.17759/cpp.2023310404. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Rifkat Z. Mukhamedrahimov, Doctor of Psychology, Professor, Head of Division of Child and Parent Mental Health and Early Intervention, Saint-Petersburg State University, St.Petersburg, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Ekaterina V. Shabalina, Junior researcher, Department of Child and Parent Mental Health and Early Intervention, Faculty of Psychology, St. Petersburg State University, Psychologist, NGO «Caritas educational center for social services», St.Petersburg, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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