Psychologists suspected for quite a while that growing up in orphanages affects the mental development, but did not have any clear evidence until now, the New York Times reads on Friday, quoting the results of an unique study, conducted in Romania. The study, published in the Friday edition of Science, is the result of unique experiments conducted through several years, comparing the IQ of children growing in orphanages with the IQ of orphans growing up in foster care families.

" Toddlers rescued from orphanages and placed in good foster homes score dramatically higher on IQ tests years later than children who were left behind, concludes a one-of-a-kind project in Romania that has profound implications for child welfare around the globe. The boost meant the difference between borderline retardation and average intelligence for some youngsters", NYT reads..

Even more, the study reveals that the longer the children remained in the orphanage, the more the IQ decreased. The most significant progress was recorded for children taken out of the institutions before the age of 2.

The study begun in 2000, when Romania didn't have any foster care families. The team which conducted the study chose apparently healthy children. Researchers repeatedly tested brain development as those children grew, and tracked those who ultimately were adopted or reunited with family. For comparison, they also tested the cognitive ability of children who never were institutionalized.

By 4 1/2, youngsters in foster care were scoring almost 10 points higher on IQ tests than the children left in orphanages. Children who left the orphanages before 2 saw an almost 15-point increase.

Nelson compared the ages at which children were sent to foster care. For every extra month spent in the orphanage, up to almost age 3, it meant roughly a half-point lower score on those later IQ tests.

Children raised in their biological homes still fared best, with average test scores 10 points to 20 points higher than the foster-care kids.

The study was ordered by the Romanian government and was sponsored by the US foundation MacArthur.