The English and Romanian Adoptee (ERA) Project
The English and Romanian Adoptee (ERA) project was a longitudinal, multi-method investigation of the development of children adopted into the UK from Romania in the early 1990’s. The vast majority of the adoptees experienced extreme early global deprivation up to 42 months of age as a consequence of early placement in Romanian institutions. The ERA project was funded by the Department of Health. Jacobs Foundation and Nuffield Foundation and was led by Professor Sir Michael Rutter and Professor Edmund Sonuga-Barke. This project aimed to investigate the effects of this early deprivation on long-term psychosocial and physical outcomes of the adopted children and was carried out from 2003-2009. The ERA project followed the development of 165 adoptees from Romania who entered the U.K. between 0-42 months of age and a comparison sample of 52 non-deprived children adopted within the U.K. before 6 months of age, as a natural experiment. Both groups of children were assessed at 4, 6, 11 and 15 years of age. At each time point developmental assessments were carried out with the children and their families, focusing on behavioural/emotional, cognitive, academic, social-relationship and health outcomes. The parental interviews performed at each time point were concerned with the adoptive parents’ perspectives regarding the children’s development and behaviour, and also information about their own views of the adoption experience. A third source of information was gained through utilising teacher questionnaires, which provided further data regarding the children’s educational achievements, behaviour at school and peer-relationships. More recently the young people donated DNA to allow us to look at the moderating/mediating effects of certain genes (e.g., DAT1 and 5HTTLPR), and a subset took part in a structural and functional MRI scan pilot-study.
The findings from the assessments were striking in showing a dramatic degree of cognitive and physical catch-up in the Romanian adoptees to norms in the institution-reared group, indicating that catch-up is greater in those adopted at an early age (under 6 months). However, there was no further difference in the degree in deficit in those who experiences more than 6 months deprivation. The follow-ups at 15 years of age, and into young adulthood, have revealed unusual patterns of persisting, specific patters of deficits and problems that appear to be deprivation-specific, out of which arise a number of emotional, conduct and peer-relationship problems. Four deprivation specific problems were found at age 6 and continues to be evident at age 11: inattention/overactivity; autistic-like social difficulties; disinhibited attachment; and cognitive impairment, evident particularly in the children who were over 6 months on arrival. At age 11 there were also elevated levels of emotional difficulties. The results were being put together into an SRCD Monograph and a BAAF published Practice and Policy document, which was published in 2009 and is available here.
Stevens, S., Sonuga-Barke, E., Kreppner, J., Beckett, C., Castle, J., Colvert, E., ... & Rutter, M. (2008). Inattention/overactivity following early severe institutional deprivation: Presentation and associations in early adolescence. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 36(3), 385-398.
Rutter, M., Beckett, C., Castle, J., Colvert, E., Kreppner, J., Mehta, M., ... & Sonuga-Barke, E. (2007). Effects of profound early institutional deprivation: An overview of findings from a UK longitudinal study of Romanian adoptees. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 4(3), 332-350.