Objective Significance of the environment for health is increasingly being recognized. Child neglect in institutions is associated with adverse psychological and behavioral outcomes, increased morbidity and mortality among them. However, there are very few published studies about neurodevelopmental consequences of neglect. The present study is aimed for understanding the early effects of maternal deprivation on infants’ biological stress response systems.
Methods The infants from Tbilisi Infants Orphanage at age from 1 month to 3 years were investigated. Infants of the same age from mother and child shelters formed the control group. Children’s growth, psychomotor development, neurotransmitter (catecholamines), neuroendocrine (growth hormone) and immune (CD3, CD4, CD8) systems were investigated.
Results The lower parameters of infants’ physical growth and psychomotor development in institutions compared to control were shown. A decrease in plasma growth hormone and serotonin levels in the basic group were noted too. Altered correlations between norepinephrine and dopamine concentrations in deprived infants indicated a blunted stress response among them. Dysregulation between CD4 and CD8 levels showed abnormal immune system maturity in deprived infants compared to the infants with maternal care in shelters.
Conclusion Maternal deprivation induces growth and developmental retardation, high morbidity and abnormal stress response, associated with altered neurotransmitter level and disrupted processes of immune regulation.