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Development and Health of Adults Formerly Placed in Infant Care Institutions – Study Protocol of the LifeStories Project


Lannen, Patricia; Sand, Hannah; Sticca, Fabio; Ruiz Gallego, Ivan; Bombach, Clara; Simoni, Heidi; Wehrle, Flavia M; Jenni, Oskar G (2021). Development and Health of Adults Formerly Placed in Infant Care Institutions – Study Protocol of the LifeStories Project. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 14:611691.

Abstract

A growing volume of research from global data demonstrates that institutional care under conditions of deprivation is profoundly damaging to children, particularly during the critical early years of development. However, how these individuals develop over a life course remains unclear. This study uses data from a survey on the health and development of 420 children mostly under the age of three, placed in 12 infant care institutions between 1958 and 1961 in Zurich, Switzerland. The children exhibited significant delays in cognitive, social, and motor development in the first years of life. Moreover, a follow-up of a subsample of 143 children about 10 years later revealed persistent difficulties, including depression, school related-problems, and stereotypies. Between 2019 and 2021, these formerly institutionalized study participants were located through the Swiss population registry and invited to participate once again in the research project. Now in their early sixties, they are studied for their health, further development, and life-course trajectories. A mixed-methods approach using questionnaires, neuropsychological assessments, and narrative biographical interviews was implemented by a multidisciplinary team. Combining prospective and retrospective data with standardized quantitative and biographical qualitative data allows a rich reconstruction of life histories. The availability of a community sample from the same geographic location, the 1954–1961 cohort of the Zurich Longitudinal Studies, described in detail in a paper in this issue (<jats:xref>Wehrle et al., 2020</jats:xref>), enables comparison with an unaffected cohort. This article describes the study design and study participants in detail and discusses the potential and limitations of a comparison with a community sample. It outlines a set of challenges and solutions encountered in the process of a lifespan longitudinal study from early childhood into the cusp of old age with a potentially vulnerable sample and summarizes the lessons learned along the way.

Abstract

A growing volume of research from global data demonstrates that institutional care under conditions of deprivation is profoundly damaging to children, particularly during the critical early years of development. However, how these individuals develop over a life course remains unclear. This study uses data from a survey on the health and development of 420 children mostly under the age of three, placed in 12 infant care institutions between 1958 and 1961 in Zurich, Switzerland. The children exhibited significant delays in cognitive, social, and motor development in the first years of life. Moreover, a follow-up of a subsample of 143 children about 10 years later revealed persistent difficulties, including depression, school related-problems, and stereotypies. Between 2019 and 2021, these formerly institutionalized study participants were located through the Swiss population registry and invited to participate once again in the research project. Now in their early sixties, they are studied for their health, further development, and life-course trajectories. A mixed-methods approach using questionnaires, neuropsychological assessments, and narrative biographical interviews was implemented by a multidisciplinary team. Combining prospective and retrospective data with standardized quantitative and biographical qualitative data allows a rich reconstruction of life histories. The availability of a community sample from the same geographic location, the 1954–1961 cohort of the Zurich Longitudinal Studies, described in detail in a paper in this issue (<jats:xref>Wehrle et al., 2020</jats:xref>), enables comparison with an unaffected cohort. This article describes the study design and study participants in detail and discusses the potential and limitations of a comparison with a community sample. It outlines a set of challenges and solutions encountered in the process of a lifespan longitudinal study from early childhood into the cusp of old age with a potentially vulnerable sample and summarizes the lessons learned along the way.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Children's Hospital Zurich > Medical Clinic
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Uncontrolled Keywords:Biological Psychiatry, Behavioral Neuroscience, Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology, Neurology, Psychiatry and Mental health
Language:English
Date:20 January 2021
Deposited On:04 Feb 2021 15:28
Last Modified:04 Feb 2021 15:54
Publisher:Frontiers Research Foundation
ISSN:1662-5161
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2020.611691

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