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Home arrow History arrow A Global History of Child Death: Mortality, Burial, and Parental Attitudes


Institutionalized Children

It has been noted that neglect or improper management caused half of the deaths of children who died in infancy.6 However, there are specific conditions in a child’s life which predict mortality. Institutionalized children (orphans, the abandoned, or foundlings), often died within a year of confinement. High mortality in “foundling homes” has not only been recorded in Medieval Europe but also in modern times. In present day China, due to the “One Child” policy, many infants (mostly girls or disabled boys) are abandoned on the road. While the statistics from China’s census on these children are unreliable, some reports suggest that the mortality of children placed in Chinese orphanages were at least fifty percent in 1989.7 Undercover reporting has exposed images and interviews describing the abuses and neglect of children left in these homes; children tied up, ill, and left to die alone. Of course, not all orphanages are so tragically administered. But it is the lack of individual care for young infants, among many other factors, which can facilitate an early death. Further, even when the conditions that prevail in these homes or orphanages are good, emotional and physical health is compromised, particularly for ill or disabled children. It is often children with special needs who are abandoned by parents that do not have the means to provide for them.

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