NEWS

Abolishing institutions that harm

Over the past 15 years, large institutions have been abolished in all developed countries because of their harmful effects on development, mental health and the social adaptation of preschool children, especially those under the age of 3, the time at which the development of the brain becomes complete. Research has demonstrated that deprivation of the maternal bond, traumatic experiences and stress slow down parts of the brain, affecting thinking, memory, emotional balance and behavior. A study of 204 of the 2,173 children aged 6-18 who live in state- and Church-run institutions in Greece showed one-third of them had some form of mental illness. More common problems are learning difficulties, withdrawal, depression and behavioral disorders. The incidence of such problems is from two to four times greater than among children in the general population. A study of children under the age of 3 who have lived in institutions for more than three months in 33 European countries showed that the most common cause of admission to the institution was abuse and neglect (69 percent). It also showed that Greece has the worst record for the longest stay in institutions by children under the age of 3 – two-and-a-half years. For children of that age, this constitutes a social policy crime. Eleni Agathonos-Georgopoulou has a PhD in psychology.