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Institutionalized Children and the Risk of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD); A Primer for Clinicians, Adoption Staff and Parents

  • Koren, Gideon1, 2
  • Ornoy, Asher2, 3
  • 1 Adelson faculty of medicine, Ariel University, Ariel, Israel
  • 2 Motherisk Israel, Clinical Pharmacology Unit, Shamir Hospital, Zrifin, Israel
  • 3 Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School
Published Article
Global Pediatric Health
SAGE Publications
Publication Date
Feb 15, 2021
DOI: 10.1177/2333794X21989556
PMID: 33644259
PMCID: PMC7890725
PubMed Central
  • Review


Objectives: Our objective was to estimate the likelihood of abnormal development among institutionalized children, addressing either the risk in general, or the risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Methods: Narrative review of studies measuring developmental effects of these populations. We identified all systematic reviews and meta analyses dealing with the associations between institutionalization of children and their neurodevelopment in general, or between institunalization of children and their likelihood of suffering from FASD. Results: a) In a published meta-analysis the mean IQ/DQ was 84 among institutionalized children, as compared to 104 among children raised in families. Favorable caregiver-child ratios appeared to have a protective effect, whereas longer stays in institutions had a detrimental effect on IQ/ DQ. b) A further meta- analysis has shown a positive impact of adoption on children’s cognitive development with adopted children’s displaying remarkably normal cognitive competence as compared to their non-adopted peers. c) The overall pooled prevalence was 6% (60 per 1,000, 95% CI 38-85) for full blown fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), and 16.9% (95% CI 109-238 per 1,000) for the whole range of FASD. d) The estimated prevalence of FASD was 10-40 fold higher than the 7.7 per 1000 in the general population. Conclusions: A large proportion of adopted institutionalized children may not follow a normal developmental trajectory. If not afflicted by FASD, there is a positive impact of adoption on children’s cognitive development and in general they are comparable to their non- adopted peers.

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