Language and cognitive outcomes in internationally adopted children
This study focuses on the association between language skills and core cognitive processes relative to the duration of institutionalization in children adopted from orphanages abroad. Participants in the adoptive group (n = 46) had arrived in the United States between the ages of 2 and 84 months (mean = 24 months), and had been living in the United States for 1-9 years. Drawing on both experimental and standardized assessments, language skills of the international adoptees differed as a function of length of time spent in an institution and from those of 24 nonadopted controls. Top-down cognitive assessments including measures of explicit memory and cognitive control differed between adopted and nonadopted children, yet differences between groups in bottom-up implicit learning processes were unremarkable. Based on the present findings, we propose a speculative model linking language and cognitive changes to underlying neural circuitry alterations that reflect the impact of chronic stress, due to adoptees' experience of noncontingent, nonindividualized caregiving. Thus, the present study provides support for a relationship between domain-general cognitive processes and language acquisition, and describes a potential mechanism by which language skills are affected by institutionalization.