Orphans need more TLC

Orphans may require more TLC than children reared by their biological parents, according to a study by Yale scientists published online in November in Development and Psychopathology.

Oksana Y. Naumova, Ph.D., and colleagues compared whole-genome methylation profiles based on blood samples from 14 7- to 10-year-olds raised in Russian orphanages and from 14 children growing up in typical families. Orphans showed changes in the genetic regulation of the systems controlling immune response and intercellular interactions—including mechanisms important in the development and functioning of the brain.

The stress of separation, the study found, affects the long-term programming of genome function. “Parenting adopted children might require much nurturing care to correct these biological effects,” said senior author Elena L. Grigorenko, Ph.D. ’96, the Emily Fraser Beede Associate Professor in the Child Study Center and associate professor of psychology and of epidemiology (chronic diseases).