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Recent studies have reported that neuro-developmental disorders cluster in families who have experienced social adversity and deprivation. Where family members are related biologically it is difficult to disentangle the causal effects of such environmental exposures from the genetic risks with which they are likely correlated. Risk for neuro-developmental disorder is also substantially elevated in individuals exposed to deprivation in non-familial institutional settings. For instance, in the English Romanian Adoptees (ERA) study, adults exposed as children to between 6 and 43 months of extreme deprivation in the Romanian orphanages that existed at the time of fall of Communist regime, prior to their adoption into UK families, displayed a 7-fold elevation of risk for ADHD. In this talk I will describe the ERA study and its key clinical findings across development through to young adulthood – with a particular focus on ASD, ADHD and general cognitive impairment. I will discuss how such long term adverse effects of deprivation are moderated by early child-adoptive parent relations and how they mediate the emergence of broader patterns of impairment and mental health problems.   By doing this I will question where environmentally caused neuro-developmental disorders and cognitive impairment fit into current conceptualisations of psychopathology.

References

Kennedy M, Kreppner J, Knights N, Kumsta R, Maughan B, Golm D, Rutter M, Schlotz W & Sonuga-Barke Edmund JS (2016). Early severe institutional deprivation is associated with a persistent variant of adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Clinical presentation, developmental continuities and life circumstances in the English and Romanian Adoptees study. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 57, 1113-1125.

Sonuga-Barke EJS, Kennedy M, Kumsta R, Knights N, Golm D, Rutter M, Maughan B, Schlotz W & Kreppner J (2017). The long-term impact of profound deprivation on human development:  Child-to-adult neurodevelopmental and mental health trajectories in the English and Romanian Adoptees study. The Lancet, 389, 1539-1548.

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