Effects of foster care intervention and caregiving quality on the bidirectional development of executive functions and social skills following institutional rearing

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Zeytinoglu, Selin
Tang, Alva
Zeanah, Charles H.
Nelson, Charles A.
Almas, Alisa N.
Fox, Nathan A.
Zeytinoglu, S., Tang, A., Zeanah, C. H., Nelson, C. A., Almas, A. N., & Fox, N. A. (2023). Effects of Foster Care Intervention and Caregiving Quality on the Bidirectional Development of Executive Functions and Social Skills Following Institutional Rearing. Developmental Science, 26, e13309.
Institutional rearing negatively impacts the development of children's social skills and executive functions (EF). However, little is known about whether childhood social skills mediate the effects of the foster care intervention (FCG) and foster caregiving quality following early institutional rearing on EF and social skills in adolescence. We examined (a) whether children's social skills at 8 years mediate the impact of the FCG on the development of EF at ages 12 and 16 years, and (b) whether social skills and EF at ages 8 and 12 mediate the relation between caregiving quality in foster care at 42 months and subsequent social skills and EF at age 16. Participants included abandoned children from Romanian institutions, who were randomly assigned to a FCG (n = 68) or care as usual (n = 68), and a never-institutionalized group (n = 135). At ages 8, 12, and 16, social skills were assessed via caregiver and teacher reports and EF were assessed via the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery. Caregiving quality of foster caregivers was observed at 42 months. FCG predicted better social skills at 8 years, which in turn predicted better EF in adolescence. Higher caregiver quality in foster care at 42 months predicted better social skills at 8 and 12 years, and better EF at 12 years, which in turn predicted 16-year EF and social skills. These findings suggest that interventions targeting caregiving quality within foster care home environments may have long-lasting positive effects on children's social skills and EF.