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Behavioural Neurology
Volume 25 (2012), Issue 4, Pages 291-301

Potential Consequences of Abandonment in Preschool-Age: Neuropsychological Findings in Institutionalized Children

Juan F. Cardona,1,4,6,7 Facundo Manes,1 Josefina Escobar,2,3 Jéssica López,5 and Agustín Ibáñez1,3,4

1Laboratory of Experimental Psychology and Neuroscience, Institute of Cognitive Neurology, Favaloro University, Buenos Aires, Argentina
2Psychology School, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
3Laboratory of Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile
4National Scientific and Technical Research Council, Buenos Aires, Argentina
5Faculty of Psychology, Universidad Abierta Interamericana, Buenos Aires, Argentina
6Psychology School, Universidad Surcolombiana, Neiva, Colombia
7Universidad Autónoma del Caribe, Barranquilla, Colombia

Received 10 February 2012; Accepted 10 February 2012

Copyright © 2012 Hindawi Publishing Corporation and the authors. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Objective: Several longitudinal studies had shown that early deprivation and institutionalization during the first six months of life affects the emotional, cognitive, social and neurophysiologic development. Nevertheless, our understanding of possible similar effects of delayed institutionalization, in preschool-age remains unclear to this day. The goal of this study is to evaluate the cognitive performance of institutionalized children with history of preschool-age physical abandonment.

Method: 18 male institutionalized children with history of abandonment during the preschool-age (2–5 years old) and comparison group matched by age, handedness, gender, educational and socioeconomic level were tested on multiple tasks of attention, memory and executive functions.

Results: We found a cognitive impairment in the institutionalized children in several measures of attention, memory and executive functions. This is the first report of cognitive impairment related to late abandonment and institutionalization effects (after 2 years old), extending the already known effects on early institutionalization.

Conclusions: This preliminary study suggests that environmental factors including abandonment and institutional care, can affect not only the infancy period, but also the preschool period providing new insights into our understanding of neurocognitive development.