Family Type Not a Predictor of Psychological Adjustment Among Adopted Children with Lesbian, Gay, or Heterosexual Parents

Press Release
For Immediate Distribution
July 9, 2013

Contact:
Laura Rodriguez, lrodriguez@rabengroup.com, (310) 956-2425
Donald Gatlin, dgatlin@rabengroup.com, (202) 587-2871

Preparedness for Adoption and Low-Conflict Parent Relationships Predictors of Child Adjustment

LOS ANGELES — Family type is not a predictor of a child’s psychological adjustment among early placed adopted children with lesbian, gay or heterosexual parents, according to a new study entitled, “Predictors of Psychological Adjustment in Early Placed Adopted Children With Lesbian, Gay, and Heterosexual Parents.” The paper was published in the Journal of Family Psychology, and is co-authored by Williams Institute Visiting Scholar, Abbie E. Goldberg, and JuliAnna Z. Smith, of the University of Massachusetts.

“The emotional and behavioral outcomes of children adopted and raised by same-sex couples do not differ from those of children adopted and raised by different-sex couples,” said Goldberg. “Our findings lend support for arguments that prospective adopters should not be discriminated against, in policy or practice, based on sexual orientation.”

The increasing number of same-sex adoptive parents has led to the expansion of literature examining the role of family type (same-sex parents or heterosexual parents) in a child’s adjustment. An estimated 16,000 same-sex couples are raising more than 22,000 adopted children in the U.S., and these findings indicate that these children will likely fare no differently, as a result of their family type, than those being raised by heterosexual parents.

The study is also one of the first to investigate the role of both pre- and post-adoptive contexts. “By emphasizing the importance of parents’ adoption preparedness, positive well-being, and strong relationships, this study provides insights into the types of early environmental factors that do make a difference for adopted children,” said Goldberg.

Key findings include:
•    Child age at placement— or the duration of time in the pre-adoptive context— did not emerge as a significant predictor of child adjustment (likely because all children in the sample were placed under 18 months).
•    Parents’ level of preparation for the adoption was related to both externalizing and internalizing symptoms, such that parents who were less prepared reported more symptoms in their children.
•    Parents’ depressive symptoms were also related to externalizing and internalizing symptoms in adopted children, such that more depressed parents reported more symptoms in their children. Depressive symptoms may compromise parents’ emotional availability and ability to parent effectively, which can contribute to child adjustment problems.
•    Parents who reported more relationship conflict during the early transition phase reported that their children had more internalizing behaviors 2 years later.
•    Family type (i.e., parent sexual orientation) was unrelated to children’s adjustment.

This study examines aspects of the pre- and post-adoptive contexts in relation to child adjustment in 120 two-parent adoptive families (i.e., 40 female same-sex, 35 male same-sex, and 45 different-sex couples who adopted their children). All 120 couples were adopting their first child, and in all cases it was a single child under the age of 1.5 years.

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