Sexual Orientation Not a Predictor of Parenting Stress among First-Time Adoptive Parents

For Immediate Distribution
May 15, 2014

Donald Gatlin,, (202) 587-2871

Stress influenced by parents’ pre-adoptive context and child characteristics at placement

LOS ANGELES – Sexual orientation is not a predictor of parenting stress among first-time adoptive parents, according to a new study by Abbie E. Goldberg, Clark University Professor and Williams Institute Visiting Scholar and JuliAnna Z. Smith, Center for Research on Families, University of Massachusetts Amherst. The article is based on the first longitudinal study of parenting stress in early childhood among lesbian, gay and heterosexual adoptive parents.

“Our study is consistent with and builds on a prior study that found no group differences in parenting stress among lesbian, gay, and heterosexual parents,” said Goldberg. “As more LGBT people consider adoption, this paper helps focus adoption professionals and prospective families on the consequential and often preventable predictors of parenting stress.”

The study suggests the following pre-adoptive assessments could impact post-adoptive stress:

• Mental Health: Parents’ pre-placement well-being was related to post-placement stress. Consequently, careful assessments of adoptive parents’ mental health and emotional resources can help identify those at risk for parenting stress.
• Relationship: Parents’ relationship quality pre-placement can be viewed as a protective factor against stress, such that professionals should assess prospective adopters’ relationship health do determine whether it is a resource or vulnerability for stress.
• Social Support: Pre-placement support from friends and family predicted post-placement stress. Thus, professionals can support pre-adoptive parents by helping them to inventory their support resources and take steps to improve them if necessary.

Consistent with prior research, the study also found a child’s age at placement to be a predictor of post-placement parenting stress, such that parents of older children reported more stress. The study also found a relationship between parenting stress and child behavior problems, such that parents who reported severe problems in their children reported more stress.

The study was based on 148 couples of which 50 were lesbian, 40 were gay, and 58 were heterosexual. The average age of the children was between 5-6 months when placed and 2 ½ at the two-year post-placement follow-up.

Click here for the full study.

Share Button