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Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 4 months ago

Key Study


Tizard & Rees (1975)


The effects of early institutional rearing (privation)




The aim of the study was to investigate whether institutional rearing in early life leads to behaviour problems and disturbances in affectional relationships. (The 1975 study was actually the first of a series of longitudinal studies that followed children from age 4 to 16 years.)




The procedure of this initial study involved 26, four-year-olds in a London residential nursery. The policy of the nursery was to discourage the formation of close relationships with care-givers and this was compounded by very high staff turnover. There were 3 groups:

  • Children who remained in the institution.
  • Children who, like the first group, had been in care from at least 4 months, but had been adopted before 4 years.
  • A control group was children of a similar working class background but who had not been in care.

Data was collected by using interviews with the children themselves, IQ tests, and questionnaires given to parents/carers about the child’s behaviour.



The findings of this study were that the institutionalised children had the highest score on behaviour problems, but only slightly so. In particular, their scores were higher for ‘poor concentration’, ‘problems with peers’, temper tantrums’ and ‘clinging behaviour’. Their caregivers also reported that many of them ‘did not care deeply about any one’, indicating that most of them had failed to form strong attachments. In contrast, the early adopted children had tended to do well and had generally formed good relationships with foster parents. There were few differences between these and the control group.




Clearly, the effect of discouraging relationships and the high staff turnover had been that children in the institutionalised group had not formed strong attachments.




The study has limitations. It is not a tightly controlled laboratory experiment, and the children in the comparison groups inevitably differed in important respects (e.g. gender and racial background). The investigators were aware of the background of each child and this could have biased their assessments. Also, reliance on caregivers’ (and in later studies teachers’) reports is another potential source of bias. Such reports will not be as reliable as actual observations of the child.


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