Marking my AQA A-Level Psychology Essay: Effects of InstitutionalisationWatch
Discuss the effects of institutionalisation. Refer to the studies of Romanian orphans in your answer. [16 marks]
In this essay, we will explore the effects of institutionalisation referring to Rutter’s (2011) Romanian Orphan study.
Rutter (2011) wanted to find the effects growing up in an institution (a public environment) had on children, so he followed 165 Romanian Orphans in a longitudinal natural study. He assessed their physical, cognitive and emotional development at ages 4, 6, 11 and 15 after they had been adopted by British families. This was contrasted to a control group of 52 British children who had been adopted at the same time.
He found that the Romanian orphans had severe physical, cognitive and emotional developmental issues. The orphans were undernourished, had lower mean IQs depending on when they were adopted (before six months: 102, after six months: 86) which is much lower than the national average and showed symptoms of disinhibited attachment (such as showing no stranger anxiety and acting indiscriminately to all adults). Rutter later went on to explain that this may have been an adaptation to having multiple caregivers in the institution so instead of forming specific attachments, they had to form multiple attachments instead. This highlights the effects of institutionalisation.
The studies exploring the effects of institutionalisation have certain strengths and limitations that question or support the effects it has on orphans.
One strength of Rutter (2011) is that he picked a longitudinal study design which eliminates participant variable. A longitudinal study design is when a psychologist looks at the same participants over a long period of time; this contrasts a cross-sectional study design which is when a psychologist looks at different participants across age groups. Using a longitudinal study design is a strength because it controls participant variables since using a cross-sectional design means that different orphans would be used, each with their different stories and dispositions which could cause inconsistent results. This increases the internal validity of the study and hence makes his findings on the effects of institutionalisation reliable.
Another strength of Rutter (2011) is the real life applications it brought in social care in Britain. In order to avoid disinhibited attachments forming in orphans, which are potentially dangerous as it may lead to children being targets of grooming or manipulation, each child is given one ‘main’ adult who takes responsibility for their development. This is referred to as a ‘key worker,’ and this helps stop children from needing to adapt to multiple caregivers by forming disinhibited attachments. This makes Rutter’s study helpful as it puts less strain on law enforcement trying to catch groomers because there will be fewer potential victims for them and since there is data showing that this has worked, suggests Rutter was accurate about the effects of insititutionalisation including a disinhibited attachment.
However, one weakness of Rutter (2011) is the fact that it is correlational and does not suggest a causal relationship between institutionalisation and these effects. For example, a low IQ (otherwise referred to as mental ******ation) may not have been caused because children did not have a primary caregiver, but because the orphanages in Romania lacked mental stimulation. This means that this study has a lower face validity as it may not be studying what it has set out to study and also means that we cannot establish institutionalisation causes mental ******ation, but is only correlated with it.