Psychiatrist Wins Award for Research into How Institutionalization Affects Children

Dr. Charles Zeanah was awarded the 2017 Ruane Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Research. The psychiatrist shares the award with Nathan Fox of the University of Maryland and Charles Nelson III of Boston’s Children’s Hospital on the Bucharest Early Intervention Project.

Zeanah has spent years studying what effects trauma, abuse, and neglect have on child development. He has also studied various interventions that benefit recovery.

The Project is the only randomized clinical trial of foster care intervention for infants and young children who began life institutionalized. Their studies showed those children had significant deficits expressing positive emotions. It found those who went into foster care made extraordinary progress. The kids in foster care were more likely to form attachments to foster mothers than institutionalized children to their caregivers.

The Brain and Behavioral Research Foundation gives the $50,000 Ruane Prize to scientists who research causes, pathophysiology, treatment, or prevention of severe mental illness. The Foundation also awards scientists who provide increased understanding of psychotic, affective, or other severe brain and behavior disorders that begin in childhood.

Dr. Zeanah is currently the Mary Peters Sellars-Polchow Chair in Psychiatry at Tulane University School of Medicine. He is the Executive Director of the Institute of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health. He also directs the Tulane Infant Team, an intervention program for abused and neglected infants and toddlers. His research and clinical interests study the effects of adverse early experiences on development and attachments in high-risk environments, psychopathology in early childhood, and infant-parent relationships.