Adoption research: Trends,
and David Brodzinsky
The current article provides a review of adoption research since its inception as a field of study. Three historical trends in adoption
research are identified: the first focusing on risk in adoption and identifying adoptee–nonadoptee differences in adjustment; the second
examining the capacity of adopted children to recover from early adversity; and the third focusing on biological, psychosocial, and
contextual factors and processes underlying variability in adopted children’s adjustment. Suggestions for future areas of empirical
investigation are offered, with an emphasis on the need to integrate research, policy and practice.
adoption, early adversity, family processes, resilience
The adoption of minors by people who are not biologically related
to them is by no means a recent phenomenon. It is found in all his-
torical eras (its regulation is engraved on the basalt slab of the Code
of Hammurabi, from around 1750 BC) and all cultures (Bowie,
2004; Volkman, 2005), and is indeed very common in animals
(Avital, Jablonka, & Lachmann, 1998). The presence of adoption
in mythology (Sargon in the culture of Mesopotamia, Moses in
Hebrew culture, Oedipus in that of Greece, Romulus and Remus
in that of Rome) and in literature (Perdita in Shakespeare, Oliver
Twist in Dickens, Quasimodo in Victor Hugo) is testimony to its
existence in all places and times, and to its ability to excite the
imagination (Novy, 2004).
Researchers’ interest in adoption-related matters is a much more
recent phenomenon. Almost since its inception, adoption research
took two parallel tracks governed by different interests and inspired
by different disciplines, although the lines separating these research
traditions are by no means rigid or impenetrable. From the perspec-
tive of social work and child welfare, researchers sought to under-
stand the best policies and practices related to the placing of
children and the type of support needed to ensure adoption stability
and the well-being of all family members. Among other areas of
interest, this line of research has been (and still is) concerned with
practical issues such as matching children and prospective parents,
adopters’ need of services and satisfaction with its provision, and
factors related to placement stability versus disruption. From the
perspective of developmental psychology and psychopathology,
researchers have been concerned mainly with mental health issues
and developmental patterns in adopted children, the impact of pre-
adoption experiences on later adjustment, and the implications of
adoptive parenthood on adults. Whereas adoption as protection has
been at the core of child welfare-inspired research, the connections
between adoption and mental health risks has been more germane to
research psychologically inspired.
These two research perspectives are by no means incompatible;
they simply ask different questions. In fact, one of our suggestions
at the end of this article is the need to bridge the gap between
them for their mutual enrichment and for the benefit of the
adoption-related community of children, families, adoption practi-
tioners and researchers.
In this article we concentrate on the psychological research
inspired by the interest in developmental and clinical issues. More
specifically, we analyze historical trends in this research, from its
beginnings in the mid-20th century to the present time. Three dif-
ferent trends of research are identified, guided by different interests
and questions. These trends imply that certain research topics are
prevalent in a certain period of time during which most adoption
research centers around similar questions. Each trend can be dated
to a general starting point, sometimes in connection with key pub-
lications, but not always. Moreover, the older trend does not simply
die out as the new research trend emerges; rather, the questions and
issues defining the new trend simply dominate the research scene
for a period of time, until newer questions begin to be addressed.
The focus of this article is to highlight these trends by identifying
some of the key studies in each period, as well as their goals and
findings. It is not our purpose, however, to provide an exhaustive
review of the adoption research literature, but only to identify and
define the research trends and to illustrate them with some exemp-
lary studies. We conclude our review with suggestions for future
research, pointing out which areas of inquiry need additional work,
and which new areas of research need to be pursued—in essence,
defining what we believe should be the next trend of adoption
research. For another recent effort to review adoption research,
including its history, evolutionary basis, and ethical considerations,
the reader is referred to Van IJzendoorn and Juffer (2006).
University of Sevilla, Spain
Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and Rutgers University, USA
s Palacios, Developmental and Educational Psychology, University of
Sevilla, Calle Camilo J. Cela s.n., Sevilla 41018, Spain
International Journal of
ª The Author(s) 2010
Reprints and permissions:
In the field of adoption, it is customary to speak of the ‘‘adoption
triad’’ (birth parents, child, adoptive parents) or the ‘‘adoption
quadrangle’’ (Palacios, 2009), adding adoption professionals as a
fourth focal point. This review article focuses mainly on children,
in part reflecting the fact that most adoption research has adoptees
as its main focus. We shall come back to this issue in the final sec-
tion of the article.
Antecedents and predecessors of adoption
Modern adoption practice emerged in the early part of the 20th cen-
tury, to a great extent, due to the growing problem of homeless
dependent children in large urban areas, both in North America and
Europe (Sokoloff, 1993). Previously, many of these children were
placed with non-relative families, often in farm communities, with
the goal of providing them with a more stable and wholesome life.
Other children were cared for in ‘‘foundling homes’’ or other insti-
tutional facilities. However, both of these solutions to the societal
problem presented by homeless youngsters were beginning to be
questioned. Movements such as the ‘‘orphan train’’ in the United
States—in which large numbers of homeless children were trans-
ported by train from eastern urban areas to adoptive families in
mid-western and western areas—were criticized, in part, because
of the failure to assess the quality of parenting and home life offered
by the child’s new family. In addition, foundling homes and other
institutional facilities were found to be associated with high rates
of medical illness, developmental delays, and mortality.
As concern for the welfare of dependent children grew, legisla-
tive efforts were undertaken in most Western countries to formalize
and regulate the practice of adoption. This movement also was
fueled by the need to counter unregulated ‘‘baby brokers’’ and
‘‘black market adoptions.’’ These practices arose in response to the
growing demand for babies resulting from the dramatic drop in the
birth rate following the First World War and the worldwide
influenza epidemic. It was in this social climate that the modern
adoption agency system emerged (Cole & Donley, 1990). For two
interesting examinations of the history of adoption in the USA and
its implication for both practice and research, the reader is referred
to Carp (2002) and Herman (2008).
As adoption developed as a child welfare practice, social scien-
tists and clinicians began to be interested in different aspects of the
adoption experience, as well as different members of the adoption
kinship system. For example, early professional attention focused
on the psychological and sociological correlates of unmarried
motherhood—the primary reason for placing children for adoption
during this period (Clothier, 1943; Lowe, 1927). Other investigators
were beginning to examine the psychological dynamics and demo-
graphic characteristics of adoptive parents (Bernard, 1945; Kirkpa-
trick, 1939; Leahy, 1933), as well as the unique issues they faced in
rearing their children (Knight, 1941). And still others were begin-
ning to examine the mental health risks associated with adoption,
foster care, and institutional rearing (Bowlby, 1951; Spitz, 1945;
Yarrow & Goodwin, 1955), as well as the benefits that adoption can
bring to the life of the child (Skeels & Harms, 1948; Skodak &
Despite growing interest in the experiences and outcomes asso-
ciated with different aspects of adoption, these early efforts by
social scientists, clinicians, and child welfare professionals failed
to create a critical mass of studies and scholarly writings that would
form a true field of empirical inquiry, partly because they were so
isolated and few in number and partly because they focused on such
different research and practice issues. Nevertheless, it must be
acknowledged that these early clinical case analyses, research stud-
ies, and social casework writings formed the foundation upon
which later empirical and theoretical work on adoption would rest.
First trend in adoption research: adopted
children, normal or deviant?
The earliest systematic research and scholarly analysis of adoption,
which began in the late 1950s and early 1960s, with a clear peak of
publications in the 1990s, was guided by three primary questions:
Are adopted children overrepresented in clinical settings? What
unique psychological problems and clinical symptoms are com-
monly manifested by adopted children and are they different from
those presented by nonadopted children? And finally, are adopted
children at increased risk for psychological and academic problems
compared to their nonadopted community-based peers? For nearly
three decades, these questions, and their variants, dominated the
study of adopted children. In fact, we continue to see some of
these questions still being pursued to this day (e.g., Keyes, Sharma,
Elkins, Iacomo, & McGue, 2008).
Like most research in the early phase of an emerging discipline,
the first trend of empirical studies was primarily descriptive in
nature, unguided by formal theory, with the exception, in some
cases, of psychoanalytic theory. Furthermore, many of the studies
used small, unrepresentative samples and were rife with other meth-
odological problems, including the use of only a single respondent,
typically one parent’s response on a scale such as the CBCL; in con-
trast, few studies in adoption have looked at the degree of consis-
tency in children’s outcome data when multiple informants are
used (see Brodzinsky, Schechter, Braff, & Singer, 1984, and
Rosnati, Montirosso, & Barni, 2008, as exceptions to this pattern).
In addition, given that most adoptions during this period still
involved the placement of domestically-born infants into same-
race families, with confidential arrangements between the parties,
there was relatively little research on older child adoption, inter-
country adoption, adoption across racial lines, and open adoption.
Despite these limitations, this early research stimulated a great deal
of interest in the study of adopted children and their families and
defined a new field of inquiry in developmental and family research.
One of the first researchers to write about psychological risk in
adoption was Schechter (1960; Schechter, Carlson, Simmons, &
Work, 1964). A psychiatrist and psychoanalyst by training,
Schechter reported on what he believed to be a significantly high
rate of referrals of adopted children to his clinical practice (over
13%) and suggested that these children might be at greater risk for
emotional disturbance because of their history and unique psychody-
namics, especially related to being informed of their adoptive status.
The question of whether adopted children were overrepresented
in clinical settings soon was examined by other researchers, but in a
more systematic way. Studies from the United States, Canada and
Great Britain reported rates of adopted children in outpatient mental
health settings varying from 3% to 13%, with a conservative mid-
range estimate of 4-5% (see Brodzinsky, Smith, & Brodzinsky,
1998 for a review of this research). This is approximately twice the
level of what one would expect given their representation in the
general population, which has been estimated, at least in the United
States, to be 2.5% (Census 2000). In addition, the prevalence rate of
2 International Journal of Behavioral Development 00(000)
adopted children in inpatient psychiatric centers and residential
treatment centers was found to be even higher, ranging from 9 to
21% (Brodzinsky et al., 1998). Taken together, these studies were
interpreted by the first wave of researchers as indicating that
adopted children, even those placed as infants or at a very young
age, are at significant risk for a variety of psychological problems
compared to their non-adopted peers. More recent studies, however,
have added another perspective to this conclusion. Both Warren
(1992) and Miller, Fan, Grotevant, Christensen, Coyle, et al.
(2000) found that adopted children’s overrepresentation in outpati-
ent clinical settings was not only due to a higher rate of psycholo-
gical problems, but also to the propensity of adoptive parents to
more readily use mental health services, especially when emotional
and behavioral problems are still at a relatively low level.
In reviewing the research during this period, Brodzinsky et al.
(1998) noted that investigators found that the most common clinical
symptoms manifested by adopted children were externalizing in
nature—namely, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, opposi-
tional, defiant, and conduct problems, and substance abuse. In addi-
tion, higher rates of learning problems were noted in this group of
children. However, few differences were found between clinic-
referred adopted and nonadopted children in internalizing disorders
such as depression and anxiety or psychosis. Adopted youth also
were found to be younger at the time of first admission to a psychia-
tric center, more likely to have had a previous hospitalization, and
to have longer stays in the hospital than nonadopted children and
teenagers (Dickson, Heffron, & Parker, 1990; Weiss, 1985).
Although these findings reinforced concern among mental
health professionals about the psychological risks associated with
adoption, critics soon pointed out that the data were based primarily
on clinic-referred children and, consequently, may not be represen-
tative of the adjustment pattern of adopted youth in the general pop-
ulation. To answer this question, researchers in the 1980s and
1990s, began to examine the relative adjustment of adopted and
nonadopted children in community settings. The results of these
studies produced a more inconsistent picture of the adjustment of
adopted children than did previous clinic-based studies. For exam-
ple, a number of community-based studies failed to find differences
in the adjustment of adopted and nonadopted children, both in the
early years of life (Carey, Lipton, & Myers, 1974; Plomin &
DeFries, 1985; Singer, Brodzinsky, Ramsay, Steir, & Waters,
1985), as well as during childhood and adolescence (Benson,
Sharma, & Roehlkepartain, 1994; Borders, Black, & Pasley,
1998; Stein & Hoopes, 1985). Other studies, however, did support
the conclusion that adopted children were at greater risk for
adjustment difficulties. For example, in a series of cross-sectional
studies, focusing on children placed early in life, Brodzinsky and
his colleagues (Brodzinsky, et al., 1984; Brodzinsky, Radice,
Huffman, & Merkler, 1987; Brodzinsky, Schechter, & Brodzinsky,
1986; Brodzinsky, Hitt, & Smith, 1993) found that elementary
school-age adopted children were more likely to manifest both psy-
chological and academic problems compared to their nonadopted
age-mates. Similar findings were reported by other groups of
researchers (Deater-Deckard & Plomin, 1999; Rosnati et al.,
2008; Stams, Juffer, Rispens, & Hoksbergen, 2000; Verhulst,
Althaus, & Versluis-den Bieman, 1990). As noted in previous
research with clinical samples, the greatest differences reported
between adopted and non-adopted youth in community-based
samples—typically using the parent-report and/or teacher-report
Child Behavior Checklist—were in areas measuring externalizing
behaviors (e.g., impulsivity, hyperactivity, conduct problems, and
substance use) and learning problems, as opposed to internalizing
behaviors (e.g., depression and anxiety).
Researchers also began using longitudinal designs during this
period to investigate the relative adjustment patterns of adopted and
nonadopted individuals. Two of the earliest longitudinal studies
were conducted in Europe, one by Bohman (1970; Bohman &
Sigvardsson, 1990) in Sweden and a second begun by Seglow,
Pringle, & Wedge (1972) in the United Kingdom and later carried
on by other researchers (Lambert & Streather, 1980; Maugham &
Pickles, 1990). Both groups of investigators focused on children
placed for adoption early in life and followed their research
participants into young adulthood. Moreover, the pattern of results
from both studies was essentially the same; namely, increased
adjustment problems for adoptees compared to nonadoptees during
childhood and early adolescence but little or no differences between
these groups by late adolescence and young adulthood. Similar
results were reported by Hoopes (1982; Stein & Hoopes, 1985) for
a group of adoptees followed from childhood to adolescence in the
The issues addressed by the first trend of adoption researchers
were not fully resolved during this early period. In fact, continued
interest in adoptee–nonadoptee differences in psychological and
academic adjustment can be seen in the 1990s and even during this
past decade. The primary difference between the earlier and more
contemporary research is methodological.
To counter the inherent problem of using relatively small, con-
venience, samples, researchers began using large scale survey data
and national registrar data as sources of information on the adjust-
ment of adopted individuals. For example, Miller, Fan, Christensen,
Grotevant, and van Dulmen (2000) used data from the ADD Health
survey, a representative sampling of 90,000 U.S. adolescents from
12–17 years of age, to examine differences in psychological and
academic adjustment among adopted and nonadopted youth. Both
adolescent self-report and parent-report data were collected in the
survey. Results indicated group differences consistently favoring
nonadopted over adopted adolescents in areas related to school per-
formance, psychological well-being, and substance use. The use of
large scale survey data, however, is not without its own problems.
In a subsequent re-analysis of their data, the researchers pointed out
that the definition of ‘‘adoption’’ status often is unclear in this type
of data source, and may, at times, be falsified on purpose by the
adolescent participants, resulting in a misleading picture of the rela-
tive adjustment of adopted versus nonadopted youth (Miller, Fan, &
Mention also must be made of the contemporary, large scale
adoption studies conducted in Sweden. Because Sweden has a
national registrar, in which the socio-demographic and health data
of all citizens can be identified through their personal identification
numbers, researchers have the unique opportunity of comparing
adjustment outcomes for adopted versus nonadopted individuals
with little concern for the inherent biases associated with conveni-
ence samples. A number of investigators have taken advantage of
this unique opportunity, with the results generally confirming
increased risks for adopted individuals for psychiatric hospitaliza-
tion, suicide behavior, severe social problems, lower cognitive
functioning, and poorer school performance (von Borczyskowki,
Hjern, Lindblad, & Vinnerljung, 2006; Dalen, Hjern, Lindblad,
Odenstad, Ramussen, et al., 2008; Hjern, Vinnerljung, & Lindblad,
2004; Lindblad, Hjern, & Vinnerljung, 2003). However, in a num-
ber of studies, findings also showed that children’s country of origin
moderated these results, with Korean-born adoptees showing much
better cognitive and school adjustment compared with other
intercountry adoptees; in fact, Korean adoptees often were on par
with non-adopted individuals in cognitive and academic adjust-
ment. The researchers suggested that perhaps better pre-adoption
care and the selection of healthy infants for intercountry placement
account for the different pattern of adjustment for Korean-born
adoptees (Dalen et al., 2008).
Several contemporary researchers also have utilized longitudi-
nal designs in an effort to overcome the inherent problems associ-
ated with cross-sectional studies. An illustrative example is the
work of Verhulst and his colleagues (Tieman, van der Ende, &
Verhulst, 2005; van der Vegt, van der Ende, Ferdinand, Verhulst,
& Tiemeier, 2009; Verhulst et al., 1990; Verhulst & Versluis-den
Bieman, 1992; Versluis-den Bieman & Verhulst, 1995). These
investigators followed 2,148 adopted individuals from childhood
into adulthood—all children born in other countries between Janu-
ary 1972 and December 1975, but adopted by non-relatives in the
Netherlands. The adoptees were between 10 and 15 years old at
the time of initial assessment. In late childhood and adolescence, the
adoptees, especially boys, showed more problem behavior than non-
adoptees. It was found that pre-adoption risk factors such as neglect
and abuse increased the chances of maladjustment in the adopted
individuals. In addition, in adulthood, adoptees, especially males,
were found to have more psychiatric disorders than nonadopted indi-
viduals. Furthermore, the experience of multiple early adversities
significantly increased the chances of poorer adjustment outcomes.
A third effort by contemporary researchers to improve on the
methodology of earlier adoption research is the use of meta-
analytic techniques to examine adoptee–nonadoptee comparisons
across large numbers of studies. Wierzbicki (1993) was the first
to employ this technique for examining the relative adjustment of
adopted children. His analysis confirmed that adopted children are
overrepresented in both outpatient and inpatient mental health set-
tings, and are more likely than their nonadopted peers to manifest
both externalizing problems and academic difficulties, but not
internalizing problems. More recently, Juffer and van IJzendoorn
(2005, 2007) conducted meta-analyses examining behavior prob-
lems and mental health referrals, as well as self-esteem, of interna-
tional and domestic adoptees compared to nonadopted children and
youth. The results indicated that both groups of adopted individu-
als—those placed domestically and those placed internationally—
were more likely to be referred for mental health services, and
showed more total behavior problems, as well as externalizing and
internalizing problems compared to nonadopted controls. Interest-
ingly, internationally-placed children manifested fewer adjustment
difficulties than domestically-placed children, a finding that has
been replicated, at least for externalizing symptoms, by Keyes
et al. (2008). However, no differences in self-esteem were
found between adopted and nonadopted individuals; nor were dif-
ferences in self-esteem found between domestically-placed and
internationally-placed children, or between transracial and same-
race adoptees. In short, through the use of meta-analysis, contempo-
rary researchers have been able to confirm the picture that slowly
emerged in the first trend of adoption research—namely, that
adopted children are at greater risk for adjustment difficulties com-
pared to their nonadopted community-based peers. Moreover, con-
temporary research has shown that this pattern holds both for those
youngsters placed domestically and those placed from other coun-
tries. Finally, although a number of studies have indicated that older
age at placement increases the risk for adjustment problems for
adopted children (e.g., Gunnar, van Dulmen, & the International
Adoption Project Team, 2007; Verhulst et al., 1990), Juffer and van
IJzendoorn’s (2005) meta-analysis of the literature found that
this factor is not a consistent predictor of adjustment difficulties,
independent of pre-adoption risk experiences, at least for
Although adoptee–nonadoptee differences in adjustment appear
to be a reasonably consistent and valid finding, Juffer and
IJzendoorn (2005) also reported that, in fact, the group differences
actually are relatively small in magnitude, with effect sizes gener-
ally in the small to moderate range; the exception being for mental
health referrals, where the effect size is large. The small magnitude
of difference in the adjustment of adopted versus nonadopted chil-
dren was first emphasized by Haaguard (1998), who suggested that
these groups show different patterns of adjustment primarily at the
tails of the outcome distribution. In other words, there are more
similarities than differences for adopted and nonadopted individu-
als; only at the more extreme ends of functioning is it likely that
these two groups will differ. In fact, a study by Sharma, McGue and
Benson (1996) supports Haaguard’s conclusion. These investiga-
tors found that in the midrange of the distribution of scores for total
psychological problems and illicit drug use, there was a 1:1 ratio for
adopted and nonadopted adolescents, but this ratio changed to more
than 3:1 at the upper range of the distribution, indicating signifi-
cantly more adopted youth at the extreme level of problems. These
results emphasize the point that although adopted children may
have greater psychological and academic problems than their non-
adopted counterparts, the vast majority of these youngsters are well
within the normal range of adjustment.
In summary, by examining issues related to psychological risk
associated with adoption, the first trend of adoption investigators
defined a new field of developmental and family research. More-
over, they were able to confirm that this group of children was more
likely than nonadopted youth to be referred for mental health ser-
vices and to manifest a range of psychological and academic prob-
lems; in fact, in many cases, the risk for adjustment difficulties was
shown to continue into adulthood. Most of this research, however,
was unguided by formal theory. Consequently, there was little focus
on the bases for adopted children’s adjustment difficulties, as well
as on those factors which allow children, at times, to overcome
early adverse experiences. These questions would form the founda-
tion of future trends of adoption research.
Second trend in adoption research:
recovery following early adversity
According to Selman’s (2009) estimate, nearly one million children
were adopted internationally in Western countries between the end
of the Second World War and the present. The figures for interna-
tional adoptions are not constant, but show ups and downs, both
globally (there was an increase in the 1970s, a decline starting at the
end of the 1980s, an increase between 1995 and 2005, and a
decrease thereafter) and within any single country. Historical
changes in intercountry adoption have been influenced by a host
of factors, both in the sending countries (e.g., war and social uphea-
val, poverty, lack of child welfare services, overpopulation, cultural
attitudes about out-of-wedlock pregnancy, single parenthood, and
adoption) and the receiving ones (e.g., infertility, lack of available
adoptable babies, immigration policy, and changes in adoption
policy, practice, and law).
4 International Journal of Behavioral Development 00(000)
Although international adoptees had been arriving in Western
countries for a long time, researchers’ interest in them is more
recent. Part of this interest was fueled by the many adoptions of
children from Romania in the years following Ceaucescu’s fall in
1989. Although by no means the only internationally-placed chil-
dren presenting problems and difficulties on arrival, the appalling
circumstances of Romanian institutionalization (e.g., undernourish-
ment, lack of basic hygiene and health, extremely poor social and
nonsocial stimulation, inadequate caretaker to child ratios, being
housed with mentally ill adults, etc.) deeply marked the first months
or years of these young children’s lives. Many of these children
were severely delayed at the time of placement with their adoptive
families in Europe and North America. In several countries, there
were different groups of researchers who soon realized that these
children presented a unique opportunity to study critical develop-
mental issues, such as the impact of the early experiences on later
development and the existence of critical or sensitive periods
regarding the ability to recover from early adversities. In fact, inter-
country adoption has brought with it the opportunity to expand the
array of topics covered by the study of domestic adoption.
Interest in the impact of institutional life on children’s develop-
ment was by no means new. Beginning in the 1940s, to a great
extent influenced by psychoanalytic theory, there were several pub-
lications on the adverse consequences of children’s institutionaliza-
tion. For example, Lowry (1940) published a study on personality
distortions in institutionalized children. Shortly afterwards,
Goldfarb (1943, 1945) demonstrated the advantages of foster care
over institutional rearing for both young children and adolescents.
Later, Spitz (1945) published the conclusions of his observations
of children in a foundling home, from which he coined the terms
‘‘hospitalism’’ and ‘‘anaclitic depression’’. At the beginning of the
next decade, the World Health Organization published a study con-
ducted by Bowlby (1951) on the mental health of homeless children
in post-war Europe, in which he postulated the need for a warm,
intimate, and continuous relationship with the mother (or a perma-
nent, committed substitute) for a child’s healthy psychological
development. This study became the forerunner for interest in early
mother–child attachment in human development.
Two additional studies, carried out some years later, need to be
mentioned as antecedents of more contemporary investigations of
post-institutionalized children. One was carried out by Dennis
(1973) and involved Lebanese children who were institutionally
reared in their first years, some of whom were later adopted at differ-
ent ages. According to the conclusions of this study, those children
adopted before two years of age could overcome their initial retarda-
tion, reaching and maintaining a normal IQ, but those adopted after
two could never overcome their preadoptive retardation.
The conclusion about age threshold was different in the series of
studies carried out in the UK by Tizard and her collaborators
(Hodges & Tizard, 1989; Tizard, 1977; Tizard & Joseph, 1970),
in which a group of children initially raised institutionally were
subsequently followed in their restored, foster-care or adoptive
families. The conclusions of this study highlighted the ill effects
of institutional life, the risks of restoration to a problematic birth
family and the advantages of adoption, especially if the placement
happened before the age of four and a half years. One of the char-
acteristics of this study was that the privations involved were
mainly in the emotional domain, as the other needs of the children
were adequately met, which differs from the institutional circum-
stances of the Lebanese children studied by Dennis (1973), a differ-
ence that could be related to the reported findings.
Unlike the institutions in Tizard’s study, the orphanages in
which many more recent international adoptees have spent their ini-
tial life can be characterized as globally depriving in terms of
health, stimulation, social and emotional relationships. Through
their adoption by psychologically healthy and socially above-
average families, these children experienced a most dramatic and
positive change of life circumstances, which, in turn, was viewed
by researchers as a ‘‘natural experiment’’ for studying their
response to various developmental risk and resilience factors. Also,
their adoption as infants was an invitation for longitudinal studies of
their developmental pathways. In particular, both pediatricians
(e.g., Johnson, 2000) and developmental researchers found in the
very special circumstances of these children a fruitful territory for
exploring the issue of recovery following early adversity, the main
focus of the second trend of adoption research. Although there had
been research on this precise topic in relation to prenatal exposure
to drugs and alcohol in domestic adoption (Barth, 1991; Barth &
Brooks, 2000; Crea, Barth, Guo, & Brooks, 2008), intercountry
adoption opened the window for the study of a wider array of adver-
sities (including, in some cases, prenatal exposure) and stimulated a
considerable amount of research.
There have been two large-scale longitudinal studies tackling
the development of post-institutionalized Romanian children, one
in Canada (with Ames as the initial principal investigator) and the
other in the UK (with Rutter as the principal investigator). The first
journal publication of the Canadian study was authored by Morison,
Ames, and Chisholm (1995), and that of the UK study by Rutter and
the English and Romanian Adoptees (ERA) Study Team (1998).
Thus, the beginning of contemporary psychological research on
recovery following initial adversity can be dated to the second half
of the 1990’s. Given that the ERA study is documented in a vast
number of publications (for a summary, see Rutter, Beckett, Castle,
Colvert, Kreppner, et al., 2009), a brief account of some of the main
conclusions will suffice to illustrate the concerns and findings of
this second trend of research.
The ERA study provides information on the arrival of and the
subsequent changes in 150 Romanian children who had suffered
initial institutional deprivation for up to 42 months and were later
adopted in England; these youngsters were compared with a control
group of children who were adopted domestically. The data pub-
lished so far focus on the initial adjustment parameters and later
recovery (at 4, 6 and 11 years) in physical growth, intelligence, lan-
guage, social behavior and conduct problems. Both the growth and
psychological development of the Romanian adoptees were
severely delayed on arrival. To mention just one example, the mean
Denver developmental quotient on entry into the UK was around
50. The improvement following adoption can also be illustrated
by the fact that the mean IQ score at 11 years was over 90. In gen-
eral, the catch-up was virtually complete for weight and height at
6 years, but much less complete for head circumference (a proxy for
brain growth) and psychological development. In these two areas,
some catch-up was observed in the period between 6 and 11 years,
several years after adoption, although progress was observed
mainly in the group of children with poorer scores at age 6.
The major post-adoption recovery notwithstanding, the sequelae
of profound early deprivation were still present in some children at
ages 4, 6 and 11. The persistent problems were quasi-autism
(problems in social reciprocity and communication, unusual cir-
cumscribed interests), disinhibited attachment (a lack of clear dif-
ferentiation between familiar and unfamiliar adults), inattention/
overactivity (both at home and at school, with many children
receiving services for ADHD) and cognitive impairment (with neg-
ative consequences for academic achievement). In other areas (for
instance, emotional and conduct problems), the problems were
present at certain ages but not others (e.g., conduct disturbances
at 11 not present at age 6).
The ERA data suggest that both continuity and heterogeneity in
development are characteristic of the Romanian adoptees. The
majority of the children who had no impairment at a given age after
adoption (e.g., at age 6) continued to have no impairment later (e.g.,
at age 11) and those with serious difficulties in earlier periods
continued to exhibit problems later on. But the heterogeneity in
children’s functioning was as marked as their continuity: e.g., some
children exhibited no impairment at all (even some of those with
longer institutional experience), while others exhibited problems
in several areas (but not all necessarily in the same ones). Also,
although the ERA data had previously suggested that there was a
dose-response association between the duration of the institutiona-
lization and the degree of impairment, the results at 11 years pro-
duced a different picture: whereas there was a clear, systematic
difference between children adopted before 6 months of age and
those adopted above this age, no differences were found depending
on the length of institutional experience after 6 months.
Some of the findings of the ERA project concerning recovery
following initial adversity have been replicated in other studies, but
not all. The 6 month threshold, for instance, might be a conse-
quence of the severity of the early deprivation in the adoptions from
Romania at that time. In all probably, it does not represent an inev-
itable critical period after which full recovery becomes more diffi-
cult. So, for instance, in a study involving children adopted from six
different countries, some with and some without institutional expe-
rience, no specific age at adoption was predictive of later recovery,
although, in general, earlier adoptees fared better than those
adopted later (Palacios, Roma´n & Camacho, submitted for publica-
tion). In this particular study, as in the ERA project, catch-up in
weight and height was more complete and happened earlier than
head circumference and psychological development, and most of
the changes took place in the first two or three post-adoption years,
with less progress afterwards. Since, in these two studies, the focus
was primarily on cognitive functioning, this conclusion cannot be
extended to other areas, such as emotional and social development,
in which there could be a more protracted period of recovery.
Also, when considering intercountry adoption it is important to
remember that not all children are adopted from similar adverse cir-
cumstances. While children from some sending countries were
exposed to institutional life before their adoption, others were
adopted from family foster care. Research results are consistent
in showing that those from the latter group arrive less affected by
adversity than those from the former, as illustrated in Miller, Chan,
Comfort, & Tirella (2005).
Recent meta-analytic studies by the group of researchers at the
University of Leiden have added further insight into the issue of
children’s recovery from adversity (see Juffer & van IJzendoorn,
2009, for a review of this research). By using this approach, the
researchers have been able to capture an overall picture of the
empirical findings in this area, independent of the inherent
strengths/weaknesses of any one study. The results of the meta-
analyses indicate that adopted children show an impressive
catch-up in all areas when compared with their peers left behind
in institutions, as shown, for instance, in the area of attachment: the
proportion of disorganized attachment in children who remain insti-
tutionalized is twice as great as that of postinstitutional children
who live in adoptive families. Comparison with their current peers,
however, yielded more mixed results, with several areas in which
no or negligible differences were found (weight, height, IQ and
self-esteem, and also attachment security in those adopted before
12 months), other areas in which the group differences were signif-
icant but of small to moderate magnitude (academic achievement,
behavioral problems) and still others areas in which the differences
were more marked (head circumference, use of mental health ser-
vices, disorganized attachment regardless of age at adoption and
attachment security for those adopted older than 12 months of age).
In summary, the second trend of psychological research on
adoption has taken ample advantage of the dramatic turn in the liv-
ing circumstances of children initially exposed to a wide array of
adversities. By studying their developmental status on arrival, as
well as the changes after a significant time in a stimulating, loving
and protective family environment, the studies of this trend have
shown the extraordinary resilience of psychological development
in the initial years, as well as the fact that the fingerprints of the past
do not simply disappear after adoption, with a significant continuity
being as remarkable as the noteworthy recovery most of these
Third trend in adoption research:
underlying processes and factors in
The first two trends of adoption research both involved a compara-
tive strategy—the first one focusing on adoptee–nonadoptee differ-
ences and the second one on children’s developmental status on
arrival and after some time with the adoptive family. In contrast, the
third, and most recent, trend in adoption research focuses on the
underlying processes and factors operating in adopted persons
and/or in adoptive families. The main goal of this approach, which
emerged primarily after 2000, is delineating the neurobiological,
developmental and relational factors involved in the experience
of adoption. Although comparative outcomes with nonadopted
individuals are, at times, an interest of contemporary researchers,
the primary goal now is to clarify the bases for individual differ-
ences in the adjustment of adopted individuals. While studies of the
first two trends are still needed and continue to be published, the
majority of adoption researchers today are shifting their attention
to empirical questions that are more in line with this third wave
of adoption research.
As in the previous trends, the ‘‘new’’ direction for adoption
research is anything but new. Actually, it can be dated back as early
as the establishment of adoption research, with Kirk’s publication
of Shared Fate in 1964. In his pioneering effort to understand the
specificity of adoptive family life, Kirk described a ‘‘role handi-
cap’’ in parents who were adopting after infertility and who lacked
models of behavior as adoptive parents. In an attempt to cope with
their doubts and feelings, some adopters were described as denying
any differences with biological parenthood (termed the rejection-
of-difference strategy), whereas others were said to readily admit
them (referred to as the acknowledgement-of-difference strategy).
According to Kirk (1964), adoptive parents who acknowledge their
difference from biological families will be more empathic and com-
municative with their adopted children concerning adoption-related
matters, which in turn will facilitate healthier parent–child relation-
ships and a more stable family life. Although ground breaking in his
6 International Journal of Behavioral Development 00(000)
analyses of adoptive family dynamics, Kirk’s work largely was
ignored until the emergence of the third wave of adoption research.
Another illustration of previous efforts to understand adoption
related processes can be found in the work by Brodzinsky and his
colleagues beginning in the 1980’s, which focused on developmen-
tal changes in children’s understanding and appraisal of adoption
and adoption-related losses (Brodzinsky, Singer & Braff, 1984;
Brodzinsky et al., 1986). Influenced by Piagetian theory, these
studies described the developmental transitions from a naı¨ve and
positive attitude about adoption in preschoolers, to feelings of
ambivalence, sadness, and even anger in middle childhood which
are linked to the child’s emerging realization that being adopted not
only involves gaining a family, but losing one as well. Brodzinsky
emphasized that experiencing adoption related loss could explain,
in part, some of the adjustment difficulties experienced by adopted
youngsters during these years. Furthermore, with the acquisition of
more complex and abstract cognitive abilities, adolescent and
young adult adoptees also were described as having greater poten-
tial for exploring the possibilities of search and contact with birth
family (Brodzinsky, Schechter, & Henig, 1992).
Regarding the contemporary research inspired by the interests of
this third trend of adoption studies, one of the topics being studied is
the impact of different family structures on family functioning and
children’s adoption adjustment. One obvious comparison here is
between adoptive and non-adoptive families. Comparing a variety
of family structures, including families formed through adoption,
one of the first studies addressing this issue showed that family pro-
cesses were of more importance for psychological well-being and
relational quality than family structure (Landsford, Ceballo, Abbey,
& Stewart, 2001). In addition, recent research also has shown that
adoptive parents allocate more personal, economic, cultural and
social resources to their children than genetic parents do (Gibson,
2009; Hamilton, Cheng, & Powell, 2007). But what is more
characteristic of the current trend is its focus on family and relational
processes. This can be illustrated, for instance, with reference to the
analysis of interaction processes in families with and without adopted
adolescents carried out by Rueter, Keyes, Iacono, & McGue (2009).
This study found more similarities than differences in the way family
members interacted with one another. For example, levels of warm,
supportive communication and parental control were similar in adop-
tive and nonadoptive families, as well as within families with both an
adopted and a nonadopted child. However, the level of parent-child
conflict was higher in families with adopted adolescents and adopted
adolescents’ behavior was found to be less warm and, at times, more
conflictual than the behavior of non-adopted adolescents. As the
authors of this study point out, additional research is needed to more
fully understand the origin and the meaning of these differences.
Although other structural differences (e.g., families that become
bi-racial through adoption, gay/lesbian adoptive families, single
parent adoptive families) could illustrate the growing interest in
family processes, only studies on open adoption will be highlighted.
In open adoption, there is some degree of contact between the birth
relatives and the adoptive family (the so-called ‘‘adoptive kinship
network’’). The type, frequency and intensity of the contact can
be as diverse as the specific persons involved (e.g., birth siblings,
birth parents, extended birth family), with all these characteristics
changing as time passes.
Although much of the initial research on open adoption
focused on outcome comparisons between open and confidential
adoptions or between children with different levels of contact
(Grotevant, Wrobel, van Dulmen, & McRoy, 2001)—similar to the
comparative strategy adopted by the first trend of adoption
researchers—researchers now seem to be paying increasing atten-
tion to the different processes involved in contact issues, which fits
more closely with the emphasis of the current trend of adoption
research. This interest is nicely illustrated by Grotevant’s (2009)
study of the regulation of contact and emotional distance between
the two families as involvement with one another develops over
time. As Grotevant notes, the desire for contact and its occurrence
change over time, depending on the personal and family circum-
stances, as well as on the adoptee’s age. Although often the needs
and desires of birth parents and adoptive family members are sim-
ilar, sometimes they are not. So, for instance, shortly after the
child’s placement, the birth mother may wonder about the child’s
well-being, need reassurance and information, and therefore desire
more contact; for the adoptive parents, however, who perhaps had
been waiting a long time for the child to arrive, establishing their
new family becomes their first priority, and they may be less open
to contact with the birthmother at this point. Later, when the adop-
tive parents feel more secure and see their family as well estab-
lished, and/or the child begins to ask questions about their origin,
they often are ready to begin or increase the contact. Yet, in some
cases, the birth mother may want to pull back, as she starts a new
relationship or perhaps begins parenting another child. As for the
regulation of the emotional distance between the two families
involved, Grotevant (2009) reports that positive and rewarding
interactions tend to increase contact, while the opposite is true for
Partly due to the influence of research on open adoption, there
also has been an increased interest in adoption communication
issues. Much of this research is based on ideas first raised by Kirk
(1964), but that went unexplored for many years. According to
Brodzinsky and Pinderhughes (2002), communication about adop-
tion is one of the central tasks of adoptive parents, who must decide
when and what information about adoption to share with their child.
Generally, this is an evolving process, starting in the early pre-
school years with a relatively simple story that gains in complexity
(i.e., the revelation of information initially withheld) as the child’s
intelligence, curiosity, and emotional maturity progress. The devel-
opmental nature of adoption related communication is nicely illu-
strated in the model of adoption communication developed by
Wrobel, Kohler, Grotevant, and McRoy (2003).
In recent years, there has been increasing interest in openness in
adoption communication, at times contrasting ‘‘open adoption’’
with ‘‘openness in adoption’’. As Brodzinsky (2005) has argued,
a family could be in an open adoption arrangement and have atti-
tudes and emotions that are not favorable to the expression of
adoption-related feelings or to the sharing of relevant pieces of
information. Conversely, a family could be in a confidential adop-
tion arrangement (where there is no contact between the two families
involved) but be open to disclosing to the child the information they
have, as well as exploring with the adoptee areas in which informa-
tion is lacking—carrying out these activities in an emotionally open,
empathic and respectful style. In fact, Brodzinsky (2006) found that
the communicative attitudes and behaviors of the adopters (that is to
say, their openness) were more predictive of the adoptee’s adjust-
ment than the type of arrangement that existed between the adoptive
and birth families (open versus confidential adoption).
For the adoptees, on the other hand, reflecting upon their adop-
tion circumstances—the ‘‘inner search’’ according to Irhammar and
Cederblad (2000)—seems to be a normative experience that begins
in middle childhood in the context of the developmental changes in
their understanding of adoption (Brodzinsky et al., 1992). The desire
to gain more information or to achieve contact, as well as the activities
aimed at those goals—the ‘‘outer search’’, according Irhammar and
Cederblad (2000)—are moretypical of the adolescent, youthand early
adulthood periods (see also Wrobel and Dillon, 2009). Contemporary
research has begun exploring the extent to which adoptees search for
their origins, the characteristics of those who do, their motives for
searching, and the outcomes of this process. Most research on this
issue has focused on domestic adoptions (see Mu
ller and Perry,
2001a, 2001b, for a comprehensive review of the literature), but as
children of intercountry adoption have begun entering their adult
years, interest of researchers is also extending to them (Juffer &
Tieman, 2009; Tieman, van der Ende, & Verhulst, 2008). To date, the
research in this area has produced very inconsistent and at time contra-
dictory findings related to a number of issues: for example, estimates
of searching at some point in one’s life range from one-third of
adoptees in some reports to two thirds in others; gender differences
favoring greater searching by females in some studies, to no differ-
ences in others; and greater adjustment difficulties among searchers
in some studies but no differences in adjustment outcomes compared
to nonsearchers in other reports. Future research will need to be con-
ducted to determine the basis for these discrepant findings.
Attachment is another area in which researchers are looking into
links to adoption processes. The study of children adopted who pre-
viously experienced maltreatment and neglect (in the family, in an
institution, or in both) has made it possible for several investigators
in the second adoption research trend to document the negative
impact on children’s attachment of early child care adversity, as
well as the significant gains made by these children following their
adoption. What is characteristic of the research inspired in this more
recent trend is an interest in the dynamic processes involved. So, for
instance, researchers associated with the Anna Freud Centre in Lon-
don have documented the process of change in children’s internal
working models of attachment, showing how new positive emo-
tional relationships experienced in adoptive families modify the
attachment related representations of previously maltreated youth
(e.g., there is a post-adoption increase in security). The research
also indicated that the benefits to children provided by adoption did
not completely erase the impact of the previous adverse experiences
(e.g., representations involving insecurity still seem stable in the
third post-adoption year) (Hodges, Steele, Hillman, Henderson, &
Kaniuk, 2005). According to these investigators, the new positive
representations of attachment develop in competition with the
negative pre-existent ones, rather than simply replacing them.
Other adoption researchers working in the area of attachment
are seeking to understand the relationship between the emotional
context of the family environment and changes in the adoptees’
attachment patterns. Maternal sensitivity in mother-child interac-
tions (Stams, Juffer and van IJzendoorn, 2002), the caregiver’s rep-
resentation of attachment indexed by the Adult Attachment
Interview (Steele, Hodges, Kaniuk, Steele, Asquith, et al., 2009),
and attachment security scripts and parental reflective functioning
regarding the child and their relationship (Palacios, Roma´n,
Moreno, & Leo´n, 2009) are some of the constructs that have been
shown to bear a connection with the adopted children’s attachment.
A study concerning attachment serves to introduce another
direction of research within this third trend: the influence of specific
genetic markers on the adopted persons’ characteristics. Research
by Caspers, Paradiso, Yucuis, Troutman, Arndt, et al. (2009) sought
to analyze the connections between a specific genetic trait (the short
variant of the 5-HTTLPR allele) and unresolved adult attachment in
a sample of adoptees whose birth parents’ psychiatric characteris-
tics were known. The 5-HTTLPR polymorphism has been shown
to have an influence on the functioning of the amygdala, a brain
structure related to emotional reactivity and regulation. The main
finding of this study was the significant association between this
particular genetic trait and unresolved adult attachment, so that the
presence of the short variant of the specified allele in the adopted
individuals increased their risk of this type of attachment represen-
tation. The authors suggest that the 5-HTTLPR genotype plays a
role in the interconnectivity of the brain networks that are respon-
sible for the appreciation of emotional experiences, increasing the
susceptibility to the disorganizing effects of elevated affective
intensity while recalling experiences of loss. As with other genes
involved in the emotional and motivational aspects of behavior, the
basic research question lies in the genotype x environment interac-
tion: the rearing environment can overcome or otherwise enhance
the susceptibility induced by a genetic characteristic.
The possibilities opened up by molecular genetics extend a tra-
dition of genetic studies that use the so-called ‘‘adoption paradigm’’
(in contrast, for instance, with the ‘‘twins paradigm’’). For non-
adopted children, genes and rearing environment come from the
same parents, making it impossible to disentangle the independent
influences of each factor. In the ‘‘adoption paradigm’’, these two
elements are separated, which explains its popularity among
researchers (see, for instance, Reiss, Neiderhiser, Hetherington, &
Plomin, 2000). If the characteristics of the birth parents with some
genetic component are known, it then becomes possible to analyze
their presence in adopted children and the moderating effect of the
rearing (i.e., adoptive) environment.
In this way, for instance, Cadoret, Yates, Troughton, Woodworth,
and Stewart (1995) had shown that a biologic background of antiso-
cial personality disorder predicted increased aggressivity, conduct
disorder and antisocial behavior in a group of adopted adolescents
only when there was adversity in the adoptive family environment
(marital problems, parental psychopathology, substance dependence,
legal problems). A very similar finding was reported by a Finnish
study involving a group of adopted children whose birth parents suf-
fered from schizophrenia, as well as a comparison group of adopted
children with no such familial antecedents (Tienari, Wynne, Sorri,
Lahti, Laksy, et al., 2004): in the adoptees at high genetic risk, there
was a higher incidence of diagnosis of schizophrenia-spectrum disor-
der when the adoptive family environment was problematic, which
was not true for adoptees with problematic families but without the
genetic risk; moreover, the research findings ruled out the possibility
that the problems in the adoptive family were due to the troubled
adolescents. Of particular importance for counseling adoptiveparents,
these studies also show the protective role of positive rearing circum-
stances in the adoptive family: children with genetic risks growing up
in well-functioning families are far less likely to develop the problems
to which they are predisposed.
Still in the domain of biologically related studies, the new the-
oretical and technical developments in brain research have already
started to translate into a growing number of publications in which,
typically, institutional children who were later adopted are com-
pared with a group of children without early institutional experi-
ence. The goal here is not the analysis of recovery after previous
adversity (as in the second trend), but to explore whether some of
the psychological and behavioral characteristics of the adoptees can
be better understood by defining the underlying neurobiological
structures and processes involved. In summary, these studies have
shown the negative consequences of early institutionalization for
8 International Journal of Behavioral Development 00(000)
the volume of white and grey brain matter, for the metabolism and
connectivity between different brain regions, and for the size of
some limbic structures, notably the amygdala (Chugani, Behen,
Muzik, Juhasz, Nagy, et al., 2001; Eluvathingal, Chugani, Behen,
Juhasz, Muzik, et al., 2006; Mehta, Golembo, Nosarti, Colvert,
Mota, et al., 2009). All of these findings have implications for
understanding some of the negative outcomes observed in adopted
children who experienced early adverse child care circumstances.
In a very similar line of inquiry, other researchers have looked into
neurochemical processes in children adopted after early institutional
deprivation. Hormones such as oxytocin and vasopressin (associated
with affiliative and positive social behavior), and cortisol (associated
with the stress-responsive system) have been the main target of this
line of research. The results show that early institutional adversity and
deprivation may translate, even years later, into dysfunctional levels
of certain hormones, particularly in situations of stress and close
interpersonal relationships, with a negative impact also on children’s
cognitive functioning (Gunnar, Morison, Chisholm, & Schuder, 2001;
Kertes, Gunnar, Madsen, & Long, 2008; Wismer Fries, Shirtcliff, &
Pollak, 2008; Marshall & Kenney, 2009; van der Vegt, van der Ende,
Kirschbaum, Verhulst, & Tiemeier, 2009).
The search for underlying processes explaining some of the diffi-
culties in adopted persons has led other researchers to look at variability
in executive functioning, part of the cognitive system governed by the
pre-frontal cortex and related to planning, mental flexibility, abstract
thinking, activation and inhibition of actions, and selection of relevant
sensory information. Adverse experiences, such as prolonged early
institutionalization (Colvert, Rutter, Kreppner, Beckett, Castle, et al.,
2008) and placement instability (Lewis, Dozier, Ackerman, &
Sepulveda-Kozakowski, 2007) have been shown to have a negative
impact, for instance, on the regulation of inhibitory control abilities
(e.g., the ability, following the researchers’ instructions, to read
‘‘green’’ when shown a card on which the word ‘‘green’’ is printed
in red; or to say ‘‘night’’ every time a white card with a sun is shown,
and to say ‘‘day’’ every time a black card with a moon and stars is
shown). Difficulties in the executive functioning system are assumed
to underlie some of the attentional and behavioral problems of adoptees
uncovered by the studies in the first trend of adoption research.
Along similar lines, other researchers, studying adopted chil-
dren’s theory of mind, have found that adverse institutional experi-
ences, so common among intercountry adoptees, often compromise
these youngsters’ ability to understand and interpret other people’s
states of mind and emotions (Colvert et al., 2008; Tarullo, Bruce, &
Gunnar, 2007; Vorria, Papaligoura, Sarafiou, Kipalali, Dunn, et al.,
2006). This difficulty may help explain some of problems these
children experience in relating to others.
In summary, there is a rich diversity of directions in which
contemporary adoption researchers are moving to gain a better
understanding of some of the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and bio-
logical processes underlying the characteristics and psychological
functioning of those touched by adoption (be they birth parents,
adoptive parents or adopted persons). Whereas some of these direc-
tions are new, others have a longer research tradition. What they
have in common, however, is a focus on those factors underlying
individual differences in adjustment to adoption.
Looking to the future
Only a few years ago, we wrote about recent changes and future
directions for adoption research (Palacios and Brodzinsky, 2005).
Since that time, much has changed in the adoption field, leading
to more varied and sophisticated, as well as theory-driven, studies
on adoption by a growing group of professionals with different
backgrounds, perspectives and research questions. The field has
benefited from the establishment of journals specifically targeting
research on adoption and related areas—i.e., Adoption and Foster-
ing published in the UK and Adoption Quarterly published in the
US. It also has benefited from periodic conferences on adoption
research which has allowed investigators from different countries
to meet and explore questions of mutual interest and to develop
collaborative research efforts. The first International Conference
on Adoption Research was held in Minneapolis, USA, in 1999.
A second conference was held in Norwich, UK, in 2006, with the
keynote lectures being later published in a book edited by Wrobel
and Neil (2009). A third meeting will be held in 2010 in Leiden, the
Netherlands. These conferences reflect not only a growing interest
in adoption research among developmental, family, clinical, and
child welfare researchers, but they also have become the catalyst for
many new directions for this research. The question of interest is in
what direction this research will head in the future.
In this last section of the article, we seek to explore some of the
directions in which we believe adoption research will progress in
the coming years. Some of the directions we previously envisioned
(Palacios & Brodzinsky, 2005) are now clearly underway (e.g.,
greater reliance on resilience theory; increased interest in the biolo-
gical factors underlying the adjustment of adoptees; more longitu-
dinal studies of adopted individuals) and have been included in our
current review. Others we envisioned have not progressed very far
(e.g., contextual meaning and implications of adoption; impact of
pre- and post-adoption services) and will be discussed further later,
along with some new thoughts about the direction of future adop-
Since the third trend is still very much in its initial stage, future
research will need to continue the advances represented by this
wave of studies. We believe there is still much to be learned
from the various lines of inquiry that have emerged over the past
10 years, especially in areas related to the impact on the adoptees’
adjustment of the quality of family relationships (e.g., between par-
ents, parents and children, siblings, nuclear and extended family
members), as well as regarding attachment processes, adoption
communication, openness in adoption, search and reunion, and the
underlying genetic and neurobiological substrates of adoptees’
behavior and adjustment. Also, adoption research would benefit
from paying more attention to relationships with the adoption kin-
ship system, especially the way in which these relationships change
over time and those factors related to the change.
While studies on adoption outcomes and on recovery after early
adversity (the first two trends) are still important, we believe that
understanding children’s adjustment to adoption will benefit more
from an in depth study of these issues—that is, an examination of
the processes underlying adoptee–nonadoptee differences, the pro-
cesses underlying the capacity to recover from early adversity, the
interaction processes within the adoptive family and the varying
developmental pathways found among different groups of adop-
tees, as well as the variability within any one specific group of
adoptees. In short, all the research directions summarized above for
the third trend are full of promise for enriching our understanding of
the psychology of adoption. Hopefully, the focus on underlying
processes will also extend to other content areas in future research.
That the study of underlying processes still has a long way
to go can be illustrated with reference to the role of genetic,
neurobiological and neurochemical factors in adopted children’s
adjustment. Cutting edge studies on these issues are only beginning
to unveil their potential. If adopted children’s antecedents have tra-
ditionally been concealed in a ‘‘black box’’, newer approaches to
research such as the focus on molecular genetics, as well as other
neurobiological and neurochemical processes, are forcing adoption
professionals (and ultimately adoptive parents and adoptees too), to
recognize the important role of biology, including genetics, in the
long-term adjustment of adopted individuals. The role of gene x
environment interactions in the developmental pathways of adop-
tees also is highlighted by this research.
In fact, in our view, progress in understanding important aspects
of adoption adjustment would be greatly facilitated by integrating
two lines of research that so far have proceeded in parallel: on the
one hand, the impact of early institutionalization and on the other,
the consequences of early trauma due to any form of child maltreat-
ment. The study of the neurobiology of emotion recognition and
understanding can be taken as an illustration. In the context of the
Bucharest Early Intervention Project (BEIP) (Nelson, Zeanah, Fox,
Marshall, Smyke, et al., (2007), a ‘‘widespread cortical hypoarou-
sal’’ was found in institutional children that could explain their dif-
ficulties (smaller neural wave amplitudes, longer latencies) in
processing facial emotions (Moulson, Fox, Zeanah, & Nelson,
2009). In a similar vein, studying early maltreated children,
Cicchetti and Curtis (2005) reported a differential sensitivity to
happy and angry stimuli that could reflect ‘‘neuropathological con-
nections’’ in the brain caused by exposure to trauma and aberrant
emotional environments. Taken together, these two studies may
help to explain, at a biological level, some of the relational difficul-
ties commonly observed by previously traumatized adopted chil-
dren. Since so many adopted children experienced early trauma
and/or institutionalization, continued research along these lines has
the potential for providing a more in depth understanding of their
development and adjustment. Furthermore, in our view, extending
this line of research to areas focusing on the therapeutic efficacy of
a positive family environment (as in the BEIP’s foster care place-
ment) and on intervention programs aimed at facilitating changes
in the children’s representational models of parent-child interaction
(Toth, Maughan, Manly, Spagnola, & Cicchetti, 2002) also hold
great promise. The possibilities of genetic studies for both basic
research and for developing prevention programs with adoptive
parents are discussed in Reiss, Leve, and Whitesel (2009).
Progress in adoption research will require not only going further
in some of the already existing lines of study, but will require
research efforts in new directions as well. For instance, most of
what we know about adopted persons refers to adopted children and
youth. In contrast, much less is known about the adjustment of adult
adoptees, and, specifically, about how they function in different
roles. Given the evidence of attachment difficulties in many
adopted children, especially those who have experienced various
forms of trauma, it is relevant to ask what type of caregiving envi-
ronment they are likely to create when they become parents. The
longitudinal study of non-adopted individuals has documented both
the long term mental health consequences of early adversity (partic-
ularly of disorganized attachment) and the importance of the devel-
opmental contexts beyond infancy (Sroufe, Egeland, Carlson, &
Collins, 2005). The study of adopted persons as parents could be
one of the ultimate tests of adoption as a successful social interven-
tion: in their transgenerational transmission of attachment, will the
pre- or the post-adoption attachment experiences prevail in adopted
Beyond attachment related issues, it would also be very
interesting to see how adult adoptees reflect on the meaning of
adoption as they traverse through various adult roles and have dif-
ferent life experiences. Although qualitative efforts have been made
to document the meaning of adoption through the developing adult
years (Brodzinsky et al., 1992), no systematic research has been
conducted on this important topic. We hope that in the years to
come research will progress in these very interesting directions.
Another area of research that needs better development is the
contextual nature of adoption (Palacios, 2009). Given that the
meaning of adoption is socially constructed (Leon, 2002; Miall,
1996; Wegar, 2000), it is reasonable to expect that the experience
of being adopted may well be different in different countries. Yet
there has been virtually no research examining the cross-cultural
impact of adoption on children, teenagers, or adults. Consider the
experience of the transracially-placed child growing up in the US
or UK, where there is considerable racial and cultural diversity, ver-
sus in the Scandinavian countries, where there is much more homo-
geneity in terms of race and culture. The first group of children is
likely to have many more opportunities to learn about their racial
and cultural heritage, to meet others who share a similar racial and
cultural origin, and to develop appropriate strategies for coping
with racial prejudice than is the second group of children. If this
is true, how might this impact on the adopted person’s development
and adjustment? Although research generally has shown that inter-
country adoptees, including those placed transracially, do as well or
even better than domestically-placed individuals (Juffer & van
IJzendoorn, 2005, 2007), there has been little effort to examine the
adjustment of these children as a function of where they are grow-
ing up (Barni, Leo´n, Rosnati & Palacios, 2008).
One area, in particular, that should be pursued, is the contextual
basis for adoptive identity development (Grotevant, 1997), and
especially racial/ethnic identity in those individuals placed in
different-race families. Even though there is an extensive body of
research dating back to the 1970s demonstrating that most
transracially-placed individuals display similar patterns of adjust-
ment compared to those youngsters living with same-race families
(see Frasch & Brooks, 2003 and Lee, 2003 for reviews of this liter-
ature, and Juffer, & van IJzendoorn, 2007 for a meta-analysis of
studies comparing self-esteem in these two groups), a question that
hasn’t been adequately addressed is whether their ability to develop
a well consolidated and secure racial identity is affected by the cul-
tural attitudes, circumstances and experiences they are exposed to
during their developing years. Adoption agencies placing across
racial and ethnic lines often provide adoptive parents with an array
of strategies for fostering healthy and secure racial identity in their
children (Smith, McRoy, Freundlich, & Kroll, 2008). Yet, there has
been little research effort to determine the effectiveness of these
strategies. The study of ethnic and cultural identity is now being
undertaken in the frame of the cultural attitudes and socialization
strategies approach (Lee, Grotevant, Hellerstedt, Gunnar, & the
MIAP Team, 2006).
Another area in need of study is the contextual basis of adopted
children’s social integration into their peer group, school, and
community. Given the social stigma associated with adoption
(Miall, 1996; Wegar, 2000), its non-normative family status, and
the obvious differences that are readily apparent in transracial adop-
tive families, relevant questions can be asked about how children
and youth negotiate the perceived differences they experience in the
context of interactions with friends, classmates, neighbors, and
strangers who they encounter on a daily basis. Much has been
10 International Journal of Behavioral Development 00(000)
written about the experience of feeling different among adoptees,
and having those differences reflected in the comments and actions
of others (e.g., Brodzinsky et al., 1992), but little, if any, systematic
research has been conducted on this potentially important topic. In
our view, it is an area worthy of study.
A final research area in need of further development is the inter-
face between child welfare concerns about adoption and those of
the mental health field. As noted in the introduction of this article,
these two fields have followed largely parallel paths in the study of
adoption. For child welfare researchers, the primary questions of
interest have focused on issues related to adoption practice—e.g.,
the risk and correlates of adoption disruption, qualities of children,
parents, and families associated with adoption satisfaction, etc. The
ultimate goal of this research has been to enhance placement stabi-
lity and the long-term well-being of adopted children and their par-
ents. Mental health researchers, in contrast, have focused more on
identifying and understanding adjustment difficulties and varying
developmental pathways manifested by adopted children and
youth. These researchers have shown little interest, however, in the
implications of their findings for adoption practice. As adoption has
become more complex as a social service practice, with growing
numbers of children entering their new families with multiple
pre-placement risks, and perhaps even observable clinical problems
already evident, it has become increasingly important to ensure that
adoptive parents are adequately prepared, educated, and supported
for the challenging task of raising their children (Brodzinsky,
2008). There are few guidelines, however, regarding how best to
achieve this goal. New research is needed to explore the pre- and
post-adoption needs of adoptive parents, with appropriate prepara-
tion and education programs developed and empirically tested to
ensure that they are effective in achieving their intended goal. This
can be best achieved through an interdisciplinary focus on adoption,
and in particular with greater cooperation between child welfare
and mental health professionals.
One interesting program that has sought to test the effectiveness
of an adoptive parent support program has been reported by
Rushton and his colleagues (Rushton & Monck, 2009; Rushton,
Monck, Upright, & Davidson, 2006). Using a randomized
controlled design, adoptive parents who were parenting children
with serious behavioral problems were allocated to one of two spe-
cially designed parenting interventions—one guided by cognitive
behavioral principles and the other by psychoeducational princi-
ples. The remaining adoptive parents received ‘‘service as usual,’’
but no specialized training—except at the end of the study when
they were offered the opportunity to receive the additional training
provided to the other parents. Interventions consisted of ten weekly
sessions of manualized, home-based training and advice following
the guidelines set out by the specific training. Objective outcome
measures of child and adoptive parent behavior and beliefs were
obtained. The results indicated significant positive changes in parent
beliefs and behavior for the two intervention groups compared to the
control group; small but nonsignificant post-intervention improve-
ment was also noted for children’s emotional and behavioral prob-
lems. Unfortunately, the researchers were only able to recruit a
small sample for their intervention study, not only reducing statistical
power of the study, but also limiting its generalizability. Despite its
methodological limitations and the failure to find significant post-
intervention changes in children’s behavior, the study represents an
important step toward developing empirically-based preparation and
support programs for adoptive parents which hopefully will be the
focus of additional research in the future.
A second important contribution to adoption related interventions
has been reported in an edited volume by Juffer, Bakermans-
Kranenburg, and van IJzendoorn (2008). These researchers and their
colleagues report on a short-term, manualized video-feedback pro-
gram for enhancing attachment security in adopted children through
training parents in positive parenting and sensitive discipline
strategies. Empirical tests of the intervention effectiveness found
short-term changes reflecting greater maternal sensitivity and a
reduction in disorganized patterns of attachment in adoptive families
(Juffer, van IJzendoorn, & Bakermans-Kranenburg, 2008). In addi-
tion, when the video-feedback procedure focused on fostering more
sensitive discipline, the intervention was effective in enhancing
maternal attitudes toward sensitive discipline, as well as the use of
more positive discipline strategies, but it did not reduce the use of
negative discipline strategies (Mesman, Stok, van Zeijl, Alink, Juffer,
et al., 2008). Given the increased risk for attachment difficulties and
other negative behavior patterns in adoptive children, especially
those experiencing orphanage life and other early life adversities, this
type of intervention program would appear to hold great promise for
fostering healthier parent-child relationships, and a more secure and
emotionally stable life, for adopted individuals. This program of
research also serves as a model for future studies in its emphasis
on attempting to empirically validate newly developed intervention
models for working with adoptive families (see also the work of
Lieberman & van Horn, 2008, on empirically validated child-
parent psychotherapy aimed at repairing the effects of stress and
trauma on early attachment).
In conclusion, although a relatively new area of scientific
inquiry, psychological research on adoption has already accom-
plished a great deal. In our view, the relevance of the research find-
ings goes well beyond the realm of adoption; in fact, the data inform
us about human behavior and developmental trajectories in non-
normative circumstances. Also, what adoption research uncovers
goes beyond the realm of basic research, as it opens vast opportu-
nities to inform adoption policy and practice, as well as intervention
efforts aimed at improving the lives of children and their families. It
is our hope that in the years to come adoption research will continue
to be as vibrant and fruitful as during the time covered by this
review. We also hope and expect that there will be greater colla-
boration in the future among researchers, practitioners, and policy-
makers, each learning from and contributing to the others. Such
collaboration can only improve the lives of the vulnerable children
served by adoption, as well as their new families.
This article was written while the first author was a Visiting
Scholar at the Department of Social and Developmental Psy-
chology, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University
of Cambridge, UK, with a sabbatical leave from the Univer-
sity of Seville and funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science
and Innovation (grant PR2008-0291).
This research received no specific grant from any funding
agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.
Avital, E., Jablonka, E., & Lachman, M. (1998). Adopting adoption.
Animal Behaviour, 55, 1451–1459.
Barni, D., Leo´n, E., Rosnati, R., & Palacios, J. (2008). Behavioral and
socioemotional adjustment in international adoptees: A comparison
between Italian and Spanish adoptive parents’ reports. Adoption
Quarterly, 11, 235–254.
Barth, R.P. (1991). Adoption of drug-exposed children. Children and
Youth Services Review, 13, 323–342.
Barth, R.P., & Brooks, D. (2000). Outcomes for drug-exposed
children eight years post-adoption. In R. Barth, M. Freundlich, &
D. Brodzinsky (Eds.), Adoption and prenatal drug exposure:
Research, policy, and practice (pp. 23–58). Washington, DC: Child
Welfare League of America.
Benson, P.L., Sharma, A.R., & Roehlkepartain, E.C. (1994). Growing
up adopted: A portrait of adolescnts and their families.
Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute.
Bernard, V.W. (1945). First sight of the child by prospective parents as
a crucial phase in adoption. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry,
Bohman, M. (1970). Adopted children and their families: A follow-up
adopted children, their background environment, and adjustment.
Bohman, M., & Sigvardsson, S. (1990). Outcome in adoption: Lessons
from longitudinal studies. In D. Brodzinsky & M. Schechter (Eds.),
The psychology of adoption (pp. 93–106). New York: Oxford
Borders, D.L., Black, L.K., & Pasley, K.B. (1998). Are adopted chil-
dren and their parents at greater risk for negative outcomes? Family
Relations, 47, 237–241.
Bowie, F. (Ed.) (2004). Cross-cultural approaches to adoption.
Bowlby, J. (1951). Maternal care and mental health. Geneva: World
Brodzinsky, D.M. (2005). Reconceptualizing openness in adoption:
Implications for theory, research and practice. In D. Brodzinsky
& J. Palacios (Eds.), Psychological issues in adoption: Research
and practice (pp. 145–166). Westport, CN: Praeger.
Brodzinsky, D.M. (2006). Family structural openness and communica-
tion openness as predictors in the adjustment of adopted children.
Adoption Quarterly, 9, 1–18.
Brodzinsky, D. (2008). Adoptive Parent Preparation Project. Phase 1:
Meeting the mental health and developmental needs of adopted chil-
dren. Final policy and practice report. Available online at
Brodzinsky, D.M., Hitt, J.C., &Smith,D.W.(1993).Impact
of parental separation and divorce on adopted and
nonadopted children. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry,
Brodzinsky, D.M., & Pinderhughes, E.E. (2002). Parenting and child
development in adoptive families. In M.H. Bornstein (Ed.), Hand-
book of parenting: Vol. 1 Children and parenting (pp. 279–311).
Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Brodzinsky, D.M., Radice, C., Huffman, L., & Merkler, K. (1987). Pre-
valence of clinically significant psychopathology in a nonclinical
sample of adopted and nonadopted children. Journal of Clinical
Child Psychology, 16, 350–356.
Brodzinsky, D.M., Schechter, D., Braff, A.M., & Singer, L. (1984).
Psychological and academic adjustment in adopted and nonadopted
children. Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology, 52,
Brodzinsky, D.M., Schechter, D., & Brodzinsky, A.B. (1986).
Children’s knowledge of adoption: Developmental changes and
implications for adjustment. In R. Ashmore & D. Brodzinsky (Eds.),
Thinking about the family: Views of parents and children (pp.
205–232). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Brodzinsky, D.M., Schechter, M.D., & Henig, R.M. (1992). Being
adopted: The lifelong search for self. New York: Doubleday.
Brodzinsky, D.M., Singer, L.M., & Braff, A.M. (1984). Children’s
understanding of adoption. Child Development, 55, 869–878.
Brodzinsky, D.M., Smith, D.W., & Brodzinsky, A.B. (1998).
Children’s adjustment to adoption: Developmental and clinical
issues. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Cadoret, R.J., Yates, W.R., Troughton, E., Woodworth, G., & Stewart,
M.A. (1995). Adoption study demonstrating two genetic pathways
to drug abuse. Archives of General Psychiatry, 52, 42–52.
Carey, W.B., Lipton, W.L., & Myers, R.A. (1974). Temperament in
adopted and foster babies. Child Welfare, 53, 352–359.
Carp, E.W. (2002). Adoption in America: Historical Perspectives. Ann
Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Caspers, K.M., Paradiso, S., Yucuis, R., Troutman, B., Arndt, S., &
Philibert, R. (2009). Association between the serotonin transporter
promoter polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) and adult unresolved attach-
ment. Developmental Psychology, 45, 64–76.
Census 2000. Adopted children and stepchildren: 2000. Washington,
DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
Chugani, H.T., Behen, M.E., Muzik, O., Juhasz, C., Nagy, F., & Chu-
gani, D.C. (2001). Local brain functional activity following early
deprivation: A study of postinstitutionalized Romanian orphans.
Neuroimage, 14, 1290–1301.
Cicchetti, D., & Curtis, W.J. (2005). An event-related potential (ERP)
study of processing of affective facial expressions in young children
who have experienced maltreatment during the first year of life.
Development and Psychopathology, 17, 641–677.
Clothier, F. (1943). Psychological implications of unmarried parent-
hood. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 13, 531–549.
Cole, E.S., & Donley, K.S. (1990). History, values, and placement pol-
icy issues in adoption. In D. Brodzinsky & M. Schechter (Eds.), The
psychology of adoption (pp. 273–294). New York: Oxford Univer-
Colvert, E., Rutter, M., Kreppner, J., Beckett, C., Castle, J., Groothues,
C., et al. (2008) Do theory of mind and executive functioning def-
icits underlie the adverse outcomes associated with profound early
deprivation? Findings from the English and Romanian adoptees
study. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 36, 1057–1068.
Crea, T.M, Barth, R.P., Guo, S., & Brooks, D. (2008). Behavioral out-
comes for substance-exposed adopted children: Fourteen years post-
adoption. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 78, 11–19.
Dalen, M., Hjern, A., Lindblad, F., Odenstad, A., Ramussen, F., &
Vinnerljung, B. (2008). Educational attainment and cognitive com-
petence in adopted men: A study of international and national adop-
tees, siblings, and a general Swedish population. Children and
Youth Services Review, 30, 1211–1219.
Deater-Deckard, K., & Plomin, R. (1999). An adoption study of
etiology of teacher and parent reports of externalizing behavior
problems in middle childhood. Child Development, 70, 144–154.
Dennis, W. (1973). Children of the creche. New York: Appleton-Cen-
Dickson, L.R., Heffron, W.M., & Parker, C. (1990). Children from dis-
rupted and adoptive homes on an inpatient unit. American Journal
of Orthopsychiatry, 60, 594–602.
Eluvathingal, T.J., Chugani, H.T., Behen, M.E., Juha´sz, C., Muzik, O.,
Maqbool, M., et al. (2006). Abnormal brain connectivity in children
after early severe socioemotional deprivation: a diffusion tensor
imaging study. Pediatrics, 117, 2093–2100.
12 International Journal of Behavioral Development 00(000)
Frasch, K.M., & Brooks, D. (2003). Normative development in
transracial adoptive families: An integration of the literature and impli-
cations for the construction of a theoretical framework. Families in
Society: The Journal of Contemporary Human Services, 84, 202–212.
Gibson, K. (2009). Differential parental investment in families with
both adopted and genetic children. Evolution and Human Behavior,
Goldfarb, W. (1943). Infant rearing and problem behaviour. American
Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 13, 249–265.
Goldfarb, W. (1945). Effects of psychological deprivation in infancy
and subsequent adjustment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 102,
Grotevant, H.D. (1997). Coming to terms with adoption: The construc-
tion of identity from adolescence into adulthood. Adoption Quar-
terly, 1, 3–27.
Grotevant, H.D. (2009). Emotional distance regulation over the life
course in adoptive kinship networks. In G. M. Wrobel & E. Neil
(Eds.), International advances in adoption research for practice
(pp. 295–316). New York: Wiley.
Grotevant, H.D., Wrobel, G.M., van Dulmen, M.H., & McRoy, R.G.
(2001). The emergence of psychosocial engagement in adopted ado-
lescents: The family as context over time. Journal of Adolescent
Research, 16, 469–490.
Gunnar, M.R., van Dulmen, M.H.M., & the International Adoption
Project Team (2007). Behavior problems in postinstitutionalized
internationally adopted children. Development and Psychopathol-
ogy, 19, 129–148.
Gunnar, M.R., Morison, S.J., Chisholm, K., & Schuder, M. (2001).
Salivary cortisol levels in children adopted from Romanian
orphanages. Developmen tal Psy cho pathology, 13, 611–628.
Haaguard, J.J. (1998). Is adoption a risk factor for the development of
adjustment problems? Clinical Psychology Review, 18, 47–69.
Hamilton., L., Cheng, S., & Powell, B. (2007). Adoptive parents,
adaptive parents: Evaluating the importance of biological ties for
parental investment. American Sociological Review, 72, 95–116.
Herman, E. (2008). Kinship by design. Chicago, IL: University of
Hjern, A., Vinnerljung, B., & Lindblad, F. (2004). Avoidable mortality
among child welfare recipients and intercountry adoptees:
A national cohort study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community
Health, 58, 412–417.
Hodges, J., Steele, M., Hillman, S., Henderson, K., & Kaniuk, J. (2005).
Change and continuity in mental representations of attachment after
adoption. In D.M. Brodzinsky & J. Palacios (Eds.), Psychological
issues in adoption: research and practice (pp. 93–116). Westport,
Hogdes, J., & Tizard, B. (1989). Social and family relationships of ex-
institutional adolescents. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychia-
try, 30, 77–97.
Hoopes, J.L. (1982). Prediction in child development: A longitudinal
study of adoptive and nonadoptive families. New York: Child Wel-
fare League of America.
Irhammar, M., & Cederblad, M. (2000). Outcome of inter-country
adoptions in Sweden. In P. Selman (Ed.), Intercountry adoptions.
Developments, trends and perspectives (pp. 143–163). London:
Johnson, D.E. (2000). Medical and developmental sequelae of early
childhood institutionalization in Eastern European adoptees. In C.
A. Nelson (Ed.), The effects of early adversity on neurobehabioral
development. The Minnesota symposia on child psychology (pp.
113–162). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Juffer, F., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M.J., & van IJzendoorn, M.H. (Eds)
(2008). Promoting positive parenting: An attachment-based inter-
vention. New York: Erlbaum.
Juffer, F., & Tieman, W. (2009). Being adopted. Internationally
adopted children’s interest and feelings.
International Social Work,
Juffer, F., & van IJzendoorn, M.H. (2005). Behavior problems and
mental health referrals of international adoptees. Journal of the
American Medical Association, 293, 2501–2515.
Juffer, F., & van IJzendoorn, M.H. (2007). Adoptees do not lack self-
esteem: A meta-analysis of studies on self-esteem of transracial,
international, and domestic adoptees. Psychological Bulletin, 133,
Juffer, F., & van IJzendoorn, M.H. (2009). International adoption
comes of age: development of international adoptees from a longi-
tudinal and meta-analytical perspective. In G. M. Wrobel & E. Neil
(Eds.), International advances in adoption research for practice
(pp.169–192). New York: Wiley.
Juffer, F., van IJzendoorn, M.H., & Bakermans-Kranenburg, M.J.
(2008). Supporting adoptive families with video-feedback
intervention. In F. Juffer, M.J. Bakermans-Kranenburg & M.H. van
IJzendoorn (Eds.), Promoting positive parenting: An attachment-
based intervention (pp 139–153). New York: Erlbaum.
Kertes, D.A., Gunnar, M.R., Madsen, N.J., & Long, J.D. (2008). Early
deprivation and home basal cortisol levels: A study of internation-
ally adopted children. Development and Psychopathology, 20,
Keyes, M.A., Sharma, A., Elkins, I.J., Iacono, W.G., & McGue, M.
(2008). The mental health of US adolescents adopted in infancy.
Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 162, 419–425.
Kirk, H.D. (1964). Shared fate: A theory and method of adoptive
relationships. New York: Free Press.
Kirkpatrick, M.E. (1939). Some psychological factors in adoption.
Journal of Exceptional Children, 6, 68–71.
Knight, R.P. (1941). Some problems in selecting and rearing adopted
children. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 5, 65–74.
Lambert, L., & Streather, J. (1980). Children in changing families:
A study of adoption and illegitimacy. London: Macmillan.
Does family structure matter? A comparison of adoptive,
two-parent biological, single-mother, stepfather, and step-
mother households. Journal of Marriage & the F amily, 63,
Leahy, A.M. (1933). Some characteristics of adoptive parents. Ameri-
can Journal of Sociology, 38, 548–563.
Lee, R.M. (2003). The transracial adoption paradox: History, research,
and counseling implications of cultural socialization. Counseling
Psychologist, 31, 711–744.
Lee, R., Grotevant, H.D., Hellerstedt, W.L., Gunnar, M.R. and the
MIAP Team (2006). Cultural socialization in families with inter-
nationally adopted children. Journal of Family Psy chology, 20,
Leon, I.G. (2002). Adoption losses: Naturally occurring or socially con-
structed? Child Development, 73 , 652–663.
Lewis, E.E., Dozier, M., Ackerman, J., Sepulveda-Kozakowski, S.
(2007). The effect of placement instability on adopted children’s
inhibitory control abilities and oppositional behavior. Developmen-
tal Psychology. 43, 1415–1427.
Lieberman, A.F., & van Horn, P. (2008). Psychotherapy with infants
and young children: Repairing the effects of stress and trauma on
early attachment. New York: Guilford Press.
Lindblad, F., Hjern, A., & Vinnerljung, B. (2003). Intercountry adopted
children as young adults: A Swedish cohort study. American Jour-
nal of Orthopsychiatry, 73, 190–202.
Lowe, R. (1927). The intelligence and social background of the unmar-
ried mother. Mental Hygiene, 11, 783–794.
Lowry, L.G. (1940). Personality distortion and early institutional care.
American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 10, 576–585.
Marshall, P.J., & Kenney, J.W. (2009). Biological perspectives on the
effects of early psychosocial experience. Developmental Review,
Maugham, B., & Pickles, A. (1990). Adopted and illegitimate children
growing up. In L. Robins & M. Rutter (Eds.), Straight and deviant
pathways from childhood to adulthood (pp. 36–61). New York:
Cambridge University Press.
Mehta, M.A., Golembo, N.I., Nosarti, C., Colvert, E., Mota, A.,
Williams, S.C., et al. (2009). Amygdala, hippocampal and corpus
callosum size following severe early institutional deprivation: The
English and Romanian Adoptees Study Pilot. Journal of Child
Psychology and Psychiatry (prepublication doi:10.1111/j.1469–
Mesman, J., Stok, M.N., van Zeijl, J., Alink, L.R.A., Juffer, F.,
Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., et al. (2008). Extending the video-
feedback intervention to sensitive discipline: The early prevention
of antisocial behavior. In F. Juffer, M.J. Bakermans-Kranenburg,
& M.H. van IJzendoorn (Eds.), Promoting positive parenting: An
attachment-based intervention (pp 171–191). New York: Erlbaum.
Miall, C.E. (1996). The social construction of adoption: Clinical and
community perspectives. Family Relations, 45, 309–317.
Miller, B.D., Fan, X., Christensen, M. Grotevant, H.D., & van Dulmen,
M. (2000). Comparisons of adopted and nonadopted adolescents in
a large, nationally-representative sample. Child Development, 71,
Miller, B.D., Fan, X., & Grotevant, H.D. (2005). Methodological
issues in using large-scale survey data for adoption research.
In D. Brodzinsky & J. Palacios (Eds.,), Psychological issues in
adoption: Research and practice (pp. 233–256). Westport, CN:
Miller, B.C., Fan, X., Grotevant, H.D., Christensen, M., Coyle, D., &
van Dulmen, M. (2000). Adopted adolescents’ overrepresentation
in mental health counseling: Adoptees’ problems or parents’ lower
threshold for referral? Journal of the American Academy of Child
and Adolescent Psychiatry, 39, 1504–1511.
Miller, L., Chan, W., Comfort, K., & Tirella, L. (2005) Health of chil-
dren adopted from Guatemala: Comparison of orphanage and foster
care. Pediatrics, 115, 710–717.
Morison, S.J., Ames, E.W., & Chisholm, K. (1995). The development
of children adopted from Romanian orphanages. Merrill-Palmer
Quarterly, 41, 411–430.
Moulson, M.C., Fox, N.A., Zeanah, C.H., & Nelson, C.A. (2009).
Adverse early experiences and the neurobiology of facial emotion
processing. Developmental Psychology, 45, 17–30.
ller, U., & Perry, B. (2001a). Adopted persons’ search for and con-
tact with their birth parents I: Who searches and why? Adoption
Quarterly, 4, 5–37.
ller, U., & Perry, B. (2001b). Adopted persons’ search for and con-
tact with their birth parents II: Adoptee-birth parent contact. Adop-
tion Quarterly, 4, 39–62.
Nelson, C.A., Zeanah, C.H., Fox, N.A., Marshall, P.J., Smyke, A.T.,
Guthrie, D. (2007). Cognitive Recovery in Socially Deprived
Young Children: The Bucharest Early Intervention Project. Science,
Novy, M. (Ed.) (2004). Imagining adoption. Essays on literature and
culture. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.
Palacios, J. (2009). The ecology of adoption. In G.M. Wrobel & E. Neil
(Eds.), International advances in adoption research for practice
(pp. 71–94). Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
Palacios, J., & Brodzinsky, D.M. (2005). Recent changes and future
directions for adoption research. In D.M. Brodzinsky & J. Palacios
(Eds.), Psychological issues in adoption: research and practice
(pp. 257–268). Westport, CT: Praeger.
Palacios, J., Roma´n, M., & Camacho, C. (submitted). Extent and timing
of recovery after early adversity. A study of intercountry adoptees.
Manuscript submitted for publication.
Palacios, J., Roma´n, M., Moreno, C., & Leo´n, E. (2009). Family context
for emotional recovery in internationally adopted children. Interna-
tional Social Work, 52, 609–620.
Plomin, R., & DeFries, J. (1985). Origins of individual differences in
infancy: The Colorado Adoption Project. Orlando, FL: Academic
Reiss, D., Leve, L.D., & Whitesel, A.L. (2009). Understanding links
between birth parents and the child they have placed for adoption:
Clues for assisting adopting families and for reducing genetic risk.
In G.M. Wrobel & E. Neil (Eds.), International advances in
adoption research for practice (pp. 119–146). Chichester:
Reiss, D., Neiderhiser, J., Hetherington, E.M., & Plomin, R. (2000).
The relationship code: deciphering genetic and social influences
on adolescent development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Rosnati, R., Montirosso, R., & Barni, D. (2008). Behavioral and emo-
tional problems among Italian international adoptees and non-
adopted children: father’s and mother’s reports. Journal of Family
Psychology, 22, 541–549.
Rueter, M.A., Keyes, M.A., Iacono, W.G., & McGue, M. (2009).
Family interactions in adoptive compared to nonadoptive families.
Journal of Family Psychology, 23, 58–66.
Rushton, A., & Monck, E. (2009). Enhancing adoptive parenting.
Rushton, A., Monck, E., Upright, H., & Davidson, M. (2006). Enhan-
cing adoptive parenting: Devising promising interventions. Child
and Adolescent Mental Health, 11, 25–31.
Rutter, M., Beckett, C., Castle, J., Colvert, E., Kreppner, J., Mehta, M.,
et al. (2009). Effects of profound early institutional deprivation. An
overview of findings from a UK longitudinal study of Romanian
adoptees. In G.M. Wrobel & E. Neil (Eds.), International advances
in adoption research for practice (pp.147–167). New York: Wiley.
Rutter, M. and the English and Romanian Adoptees (ERA) Study Team
(1998). Developmental catch-up, and deficit, following adoption
after severe global early privation. Journal of Child Psychology and
Psychiatry, 39, 465–476.
Schechter, M.D. (1960). Observations on adopted children. Archives of
General Psychiatry, 3, 21–32.
Schechter, M.D., Carlson, P.V., Simmons, J.Q., & Work, H.H. (1964).
Emotional problems in the adoptee. Archives of General Psychiatry,
Seglow, I., Pringle, M.K., & Wedge, P. (1972). Growing up adopted.
Windsor: National Foundation for Educational Research in England
Selman, P. (2009). From Bucharest to Beijing: Changes in countries
sending children for international adoption 1990 to 2006. In G.M.
Wrobel & E. Neil (Eds.), International advances in adoption
research for practice (pp. 41–69). New York: Wiley.
14 International Journal of Behavioral Development 00(000)
Sharma, A.R., McGue, M.K., & Benson, P.L. (1996). The emotional
and behavioral adjustment of adopted adolescents, Part 1: An over-
view. Children and Youth Services Review, 18, 83–100.
Singer, L., Brodzinsky, D.M., Ramsay, D., Steir, M., & Waters, E.
(1985). Mother-infant attachment in adoptive families. Child
Development, 56, 1543–1551.
Skeels, H.M., & Harms, I. (1948). Children with inferior social his-
tories: Their mental development in adoptive homes. Journal of
Genetic Psychology, 72, 283–294.
Skodak, M., & Skeels, H.M. (1949). A final follow-up study of one hun-
dred adopted children. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 75, 85–125.
Smith, S., McRoy, R.G., Freundlich, M., & Kroll, J. (2008). Finding
families for African American children: The role of law in adoption
from foster care. Available online at www.adoptioninstitute.org
Sokoloff, B.Z. (1993). Antecedents of American adoption. The Future
of Children, 3, 17–25.
Spitz, R.A. (1945). Hospitalism: An inquiry into the genesis of psychia-
tric conditions in early childhood. Psychoanalytic Study of the
Child, 1, 53–74.
Sroufe, L.A., Egeland, B., Carlson, E., & Collins, W.A. (2005). The
development of the person: The Minnesota study of risk and adapta-
tion from birth to adulthood. New York: Guilford.
Stein, L.M., & Hoopes, J.L. (1985). Identity formation in the adopted
adolescent. New York: Child Welfare League of America.
Stams, G., Juffer, F., Rispens, J., Hoksbergen, R.A.C. (2000). The devel-
opment and adjustment of 7-year-old children adopted in infancy.
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 41, 1025–1037.
Stams, G.J.J.M., Juffer, F., & Van IJzendoorn, M.H. (2002).
Maternal sensitivity, infant attachment, and temperament predict
adjustment in middle childhood: The case of adopted children
and their biologically unrelated parents. Developmental Psychol-
ogy, 38, 806–821.
Steele, M., Hodges, J., Kaniuk, J., Steele, H., Asquith, K., & Hillman, S.
(2009). Attachment representations and adoption outcome: On the
use of narrative assessments to track the adaptation of previously
maltreated children in their new families. In G.M. Wrobel & E. Neil
(Eds.), International advances in adoption research for practice.
(pp. 169–192). Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
Tarullo, A.R., Bruce, J., & Gunnar, M.R. (2007). False belief and
emotion understanding in post-institutionalized children. Social
Development, 16, 57–78.
Tieman, W., van der Ende, J., & Verhulst, F.C. (2005). Psychiatric dis-
orders in young adult intercountry adoptees: An epidemiological
study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 162, 592–598.
Tieman, W., van der Ende, J., & Verhulst, F.C. (2008). Young adult
international adoptees’ search for birth parents. Journal of Family
Psychology, 22, 678–687.
Tienari, P., Wynne, L.C., Sorri, A., Lahti, I., Laksy, K., Moring, J., et al.
(2004). Genotype-environment interaction in schizophrenia-
spectrum disorder. Long-term follow-up study of Finnish adoptees.
British Journal of Psychiatry, 184, 216–222.
Tizard, B. (1977). Adoption: a second chance. London: Open Books.
Tizard, B., & Joseph, A. (1970). Cognitive development of young chil-
dren in residential care: A study of children aged 24 months. Jour-
nal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 11, 177–186.
Toth, S.L., Maughan, A., Manly, J.T., Spagnola, M., & Cicchetti, D.
(2002). The relative efficacy of two interventions in altering mal-
treated preschool children’s representational models: Implications
for attachment theory. Development and Psychopathology, 14,
Van der Vegt, E.J.M., van der Ende, J., Ferdinand, R.F., Verhulst, F.C.,
& Tiemeier, H. (2009). Early childhood adversities and trajectories
of psychiatric problems in adoptees: Evidence for long lasting
effects. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 37, 239–249.
Van der Vegt, E.J.M., van der Ende, J., Kirschbaum, C., Verhulst, F.C.,
& Tiemeier, H. (2009). Early neglect and abuse predict diurnal
cortisol patterns in adults. A study of international adoptees.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, 34, 660–669.
Van IJzendoorn, M.H., & Juffer, F. (2006). The Emanuel Miller
Memorial Lecture 2006: Adoption as intervention. Meta-analytic
evidence of massive catch-up and plasticity in physical, socio-
emotional, and cognitive development. Journal of Child Psychology
and Psychiatry, 47, 1228–1245.
Verhulst, F.C., Althaus, M., Versluis-den Bieman, H.J.M. (1990). Prob-
lem behavior in international adoptees: I. An epidemiological study.
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychia-
try, 29, 94–103.
Verhulst, F.C., & Versluis-den Bieman, H.J.M. (1992). Developmental
course of problem behaviors in adolescent adoptees. Journal of the
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 34, 151–159.
Versluis-den Bieman, H.J.M., & Verhulst, F.C. (1995). Self-reported
and parent reported problems in adolescent international adoptees.
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines,
Volkman, T.A. (Ed.) (2005). Cultures of transnational adoption. Dur-
han, NC: Duke University Press.
von Borczyskowski, A., Hjern, A., Lindblad, F., & Vinnerljung, B.
(2006). Suicidal behavior in national and international adult adop-
tees: A Swedish cohort study. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric
Epidemiology, 41, 95–102.
Vorria, P., Papaligoura, Z., Sarafidou, J., Kopakaki, M., Dunn, J., Van
IJzendoorn, M.H., & Kontopoulou, A. (2006).The development of
adopted children after institutional care: a follow-up study. Journal
of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47, 1246–1253.
Warren, S.B. (1992). Lower threshold for referral for psychiatric treat-
ment for adopted adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 31, 512–527.
Wegar, K. (2000). Adoption, family ideology, and social stigma: bias in
community attitudes, adoption research, and practice. Family Rela-
tions, 49, 363–370.
Weiss, A. (1985). Symptomatology of adopted and nonadopted adoles-
cents in a psychiatric hospital. Adolescence, 19, 77–88.
Wierzbicki, M. (1993). Psychological adjustment in adoptees: A meta-
analysis. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 22, 447–454.
Wismer Fries, A., Shirtcliff, E.A., & Pollak, S. D. (2008). Neuroendo-
crine dysregulation following early social deprivation in children,
Developmental Psychobiology, 50, 588–599.
Wrobel, G.M., & Dillon, K. (2009). Adopted adolescents: Who and
what are they curious about. In G.M. Wrobel & E. Neil (Eds.), Inter-
national advances in adoption research for practice (pp.217–244).
New York: Wiley.
Wrobel, G.M., Kohler, J.K., Grotevant, H.D., & McRoy, R.G. (2003).
The Family Adoption Communication Model (FAC): Identifying
pathways of adoption-related communication. Adoption Quarterly,
Wrobel, G.M., & Neil, E. (Eds.) (2009). International advances in
adoption research for practice. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
Yarrow, L.J., & Goodwin, M.S. (1955). Effects of change in mother
figures during infancy on personality development. Washington,
DC: Family and Child Services.