Predictors of Psychological Adjustment in Early Placed Adopted Children With Lesbian, Gay, and Heterosexual Parents

By Abbie E. Goldberg, JuliAnna Z. Smith
July 2013

adoption-imgFamily type is not a predictor of a child’s psychological adjustment among early placed adopted children with lesbian, gay or heterosexual parents. 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. 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.

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.

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*Originally published in the Journal of Family Psychology.

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