Cognitive Development of Young Children in Institutions with Different Social Environment



In the Russian Federation institutional care (IC) has been the most prevalent form of care for orphans and vulnerable children. At the same time, it has been noted that children who had experienced early IC characterized by psychosocial deprivation often showed delays in cognitive functioning. Ways of solving this problem are intervention programs designed to improve traditional IC and decrease child deprivation. In Russia the main project on the improvement of IC was held in Saint-Petersburg (The St. Petersburg — USA Orphanage Research Team, 2008), where one of the baby homes (BH) was restructured to create a family-like social environment. Since The Saint-Petersburg — USA Orphanage research project, conducted 15 years ago, there has been no comparison study of children’s cognitive development in BH with different social environments that would indicate the influence of a familylike social environment in IC on a child’s level of cognitive development. Herewith our research was conducted to compare the cognitive development of children in different BH: traditional and familylike institutions. Tests Methods included the Mullen Scales of Early Learning (MSEL, 1995), and the Vineland Behavior Adaptive Scales (VABS, 2005). The sample included 25 children in the age range from 5 to 28 months: 13 children from BHA, aged 5 to 28 months (M=18.46, SD=6.47) and 12 children from BHB aged 6 to 28 months (M=16.67, SD=6.34). Results showed that children from family-like orphanage (BHA) showed higher scores on cognitive development (F=5.09, p=.03) and in particularly the MSEL Visual Reception Scale (F =6.54, p=.01), and the VABS Expressive Communication Scale (F=12.91, p=.000) compared to children from traditional BH (BHB). The results emphasize the importance of a family-like social environment in institutions both for cognitive development and the mental health of young children.

General Information

Keywords: cognitive development, young children, institutional care, social environment, early development, impact of early deprivation

Journal rubric: Developmental Psychology

Article type: scientific article

For citation: Kolesnikova M.A., Solodunova M.Y., Zhukova M.A., Anikina V.O. Cognitive Development of Young Children in Institutions with Different Social Environment. Vestnik of Saint Petersburg University. Psychology, 2017. Vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 365–381. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Margarita A. Kolesnikova, Engineer-Researcher, Laboratory of Translational Sciences of Human Development, Saint-Petersburg State University, St.Petersburg, Russia, e-mail:

Maria Y. Solodunova, PhD in Psychology, St. Petersburg State University, St.Petersburg, Russia, e-mail:

Marina A. Zhukova, PhD in Psychology, Senior Researcher, Center for Cognitive Sciences, Sirius University of Science and Technology, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Varvara O. Anikina, PhD in Psychology, associate professor at the chair of early intervention and mental health, department of psychology, Saint-Petersburg State University, St.Petersburg, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



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