Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Study: Parents' Feelings Toward Adopted & Non-Adopted Kids

Really interesting study of families with at least one adopted child and at least one biological child, published in the journal, Infant and Child Development:
In the current study, we examined parent gender differences in feelings (negativity and positivity) and perceptions of child behavioural and emotional problems in adoptive and biological parent–child dyads. In a sample of 85 families, we used a novel within-family adoption design in which one child was adopted and one child was a biological child of the couple, and tested whether the links between parent feelings and child maladjustment included effects of passive gene–environment correlation. Parents reported more negativity and less positivity as well as higher levels of externalizing behaviour for the adopted child compared to the non-adopted child, although effect sizes were small and no longer statistically significant after correcting for multiple comparisons. Fathers and mothers did not differ significantly in their reports of positive and negative feelings towards their children or in regard to child externalizing and internalizing behaviours. The correlations between parental negativity and positivity and child externalizing and internalizing were similar for fathers and mothers, and for adopted and non-adopted children. The findings suggest similar parent–child relationship processes for fathers and mothers, and that genetic transmission of behaviour from parent to child does not account for the association between parental warmth and hostility and child-adjustment problems.
Essentially, the study found that  adoptees were regarded with less positivity and more negativity by their parents, and rated as higher in externalizing problems ("acting out," aggression, violence). BUT when these statistics were considered in light of other possible factors, there was not longer a statistically significant difference.

I think the study design -- single families with both bio and adopted kids -- makes the study particularly interesting.   What do you think about the study and its results?


Dawn said...

"Most of the adopted children (84%) were born outside of the United States (mostly from Asia and Eastern Europe) and adopted in their first year of life."

How much does the adoption process itself impact the family's experience? I'm interested in this because I wonder how the narratives families tell themselves might influence their relationship with their children.

Amanda said...

I was raised an only-child but I do know adoptees who do not feel treated differently and ones who really, really were treated and viewed by their families as different. Some of their stories are quite sad--there was an invisible standard they could never live up to.

Kris said...

Interesting study. I think it is hard to measure "feelings". There is the parents' feelings but also the child's feelings. They may be very different. I think there are a lot of variables. I have both bio and an adopted child.