Institutional placement of infants – life stories 60 years later

At the end of the 1950s, the development and living conditions of approx. 700 infants were systematically documented. Some of these children grew up in their families of origin, others spent their early years in institutions for infants. How have their lives developed and how are they faring today, 60 years later?

  • Project description (completed research project)

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    Between 1958 and 1961, Dr. Marie Meierhofer studied 354 infants that, for a variety of reasons, were cared for in institutions during their early life. Between 1971–1973, she conducted a hitherto unpublished follow-up study. At the same time, 350 infants growing up in families were included in a comprehensive study as part of the Zurich Longitudinal Studies at the University Children’s Hospital Zurich. Children placed in institutions showed various developmental deficits compared to their peers who grew up in families.

    The individuals from both studies, in their sixties today (*1953–1959), were invited to share their life trajectories. Applying a combination of qualitative and quantitative assessments methods, their physical and mental health as well as their cognitive, social and motor abilities were documented. Factors related to family background, individual preconditions, care environment aspects as well as later biographical events and current life situations were assessed and described.

  • Original title

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    Early Breaks: The impact of infant institutionalization in Switzerland – a 60-year long-term follow-up study

  • Results

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    The summary of the results for this project are available here:

    Summary of the results (german) (PDF)
    Summary of the results (french) (PDF)