The Impact of Early Institutionalization Experience on Child Development: Biological Indicators, Physiological Mechanisms, Behavioral Characteristics



Objective. Systematization and generalization of research data on the impact of early institutionalization on biological indicators of children's development, and a description of the underlying physiological mechanisms and relations between biological indicators and their behavioral manifestations in children.

Background. Early deprivation is a significant social-psychological factor that dramatically affects the subsequent mental health and development of children. To date, a wide amount of data on the biological effects of early institutional deprivation has been accumulated in the research literature while this information is little represented in Russia. To understand the specificity of the biological and behavioral development of children with institutionalization experience transferred from Russian institutions into domestic adoptive or foster care families there is a need to analyze, systematize and generalize information on bio-behavioral consequences of early institutionalization.

Conclusions. Research results indicate in children with early institutional experience a significant change in biological development manifested in negative changes in morphofunctional development and microstructural organization of the brain, and characteristics of its activity, in cortisol secretion, violations of immunity, changes in DNA methylation profiling, in microbiome. Biological changes and their behavioral correlates are associated with such institutional conditions as the severity of deprivation and duration of institutionalization (the age of the child's transfer from institution to family). In order to prevent developmental, somatic and mental health disorders associated with the long-term impact of early deprivation, the state policy in the field of early childhood and the work of the professional society have to fulfil the rights of the child to live in the family in relationship with sensitive and responsive emotionally available primary caregivers.

General Information

Keywords: children with institutional experience; post-institutional family; development; biological indicators

Journal rubric: Theoretical Research

Article type: scientific article


Funding. The reported study was funded by Russian Science Foundation (RSF), project number 22-28-00626,

Received: 28.04.2023


For citation: Chernego D.I., Vasilyeva M.Y., Mukhamedrahimov R.Z. The Impact of Early Institutionalization Experience on Child Development: Biological Indicators, Physiological Mechanisms, Behavioral Characteristics. Sotsial'naya psikhologiya i obshchestvo = Social Psychology and Society, 2023. Vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 9–27. DOI: 10.17759/sps.2023140202. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Daria I. Chernego, PhD in Psychology, Research Scientist of Department of Child and Parent Mental Health and Early Intervention, Faculty of Psychology, Saint Petersburg State University, St.Petersburg, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Marina Y. Vasilyeva, PhD in Biology, Senior Research Scientist of Department of Higher Nervous Activity and Psychophysiology, Saint Petersburg State University, St.Petersburg, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

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:



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