All adolescents were asked a general question, “How do you feel about your birth mother?”, regardless of whether they had contact. Responses about feelings toward birth mothers were coded separately for positive and negative affect, since positive and negative feelings can vary independently of each other. A 5-point scale was used, with 1 indicating no positive (or negative) affect or no feelings about her, 3 indicating moderate positive (or negative) affect, and 5 indicating strong positive (or negative) affect. Value 2 fell between 1 and 3, and value 4 fell between 3 and 5. Examples of positive affect included descriptions of adolescents’ feelings about their birth mother that used words such as love, happiness, excitement, interest, pride; examples of negative affect included words such as sadness, nervousness, anxiety, shame, anger.According to the researchers, "Adopted adolescents’ positive feelings about their birth mothers varied significantly as a function of openness arrangements. . . . [T]he mean level of positive affect was significantly higher in the contact with meetings group than in the no contact or stopped contact groups. . . . Negative feelings about birth mothers did not vary as a function of openness arrangement." Furthermore,
Adolescents having contact with meetings were asked how they felt after the meetings. Each adolescent’s interview response was coded for the predominant three descriptors. . . . Half of the responses were accounted for by two categories: “pleasure/happiness/contentment” and “anxious/apprehensive/concerned/nervous/tense/weird.” None of the adolescents reported feelings of fear, hatred, surprise, anger, or confusion about who their parents were. Twenty-seven adolescents (51.9 percent) reported a mixture of descriptors that seemed to include both positive and negative feelings after meetings. A typical combination was “nervous” and “very happy.” A total of 21 adolescents (40.4 percent) reported only positive feelings, 2 (3.8 percent) reported only negative feelings, and 2 (3.8 percent) said they did not remember how they felt. The latter two adolescents said they had only met their birth mother once.The researchers conclude:
These data revealed that many adolescents’ meetings with birth relatives are an occasion for a mixture of feelings, especially pleasure intermingled with nervousness. However, it is especially noteworthy that no adolescents mentioned that meetings made them feel afraid, surprised, angry, or confused about who their parents were. This should be reassuring to prospective adoptive parents who mention concern about confusion as a reason for not having birth parent contact. Once again, we have found no evidence that contact is inherently harmful to children’s or adolescents’ well-being.Reassuring, indeed.