The majority of children adopted from Romanian orphanages have mental health issues even as adults, a new study suggests.
Researchers from King’s College London and the University of Southampton worked together with academics from Germany on a long-term study of 165 Romanian orphans. Each child was adopted by British parents between 1990 and 1992.
At first most were malnourished and under-developed. Some of the children improved very quickly while others continued to struggle. Most of those who showed improvement had only lived in a Romanian orphanage for less than six months before they were adopted.
Meanwhile, those who had remained at these orphanages longer had much higher rates of emotional and social problems as they grew up. These included difficulty forming and maintaining relationships as well as having issues with concentration and attention. Around 40 per cent of them had used mental health services at some point during their lives. They also had higher unemployment rates than other adopted children from both Romania and the UK.
Study author Professor Edmund Sonuga-Barke could not dismiss the possibility that “something quite fundamental may have happened in the brains of those children” which could not be undone, regardless of who adopted them. Therefore it was vital to find loving families for children as soon as possible he stressed.
The study was published in British medical journal The Lancet.