This article summarizes the research on socio-emotional deficits in post-institutionalized children. Institutional rearing is associated with early social deprivation, including lack of individualized attention and consistent relatedness from a stable caregiver. Early socio-emotional development of joint attention, pretend play, and attachment are compromised in post-institutionalized children, which may contribute to persistent socio-emotional deficits in maintaining social boundaries, peer competence, and social cognition. Problems with attention and executive function may also contribute to difficulty in regulating social interactions. It is concluded that early social experience plays a role in the organization of neural circuits relevant to social interaction and regulation, thereby exerting a long-term influence on the underlying capacity to process social information.
Keywords: early experience, institutionalization, social deprivation, developmental outcomes, adopted children