Most studies regarding openness to date have looked at the outcomes for either the birth or adoptive parents. Studies looking at the developmental outcomes of the children are fewer in number. The major longitudinal study of outcomes of infants placed in a variety of open adoption arrangements is being conducted by Ruth McRoy and Harold Grotevant. They have reported their key findings in numerous published papers.
1. Grotevant, Harold D.; Ross, Nicole M.; Marchel, Mary Ann; and McRoy, Ruth G. "Adaptive Behavior in Adopted Children: Predictors from Early Risk, Collaboration in Relationships Within the Adoptive Kinship Network, and Openness Arrangements." Journal of Adolescent Research v 14, n 2 (April 1999): 231-47.
The authors examined socioemotional outcomes in 190 adopted children. The researchers sought to identify the effects of both preadoption risk factors and current adoptive family functioning on the child. The relationship between varying degrees of openness in adoption and outcomes for children was examined as well.
In this study sample, there was no linkage between early risk factors and socioemotional development 4 to 12 years postadoption. However, the researchers note, this was a very low risk group for negative preadoption factors. Situations of abuse, neglect, and multiple foster placements were almost nonexistent.
The researchers conducted an extensive evaluation of the 12 cases in which the children had the highest risk scores. Both adoptive parents and the birth mothers were interviewed. Each of these adoptive kinship networks were assigned a rating on collaboration. The authors believe that the quality of the interaction among the adoptive parents and birth family members involved in the child's life accounts for the variance in child outcomes. Among the families who were rated low on collaboration in relationships, there often existed differing perceptions between the birth and adoptive parents about the level of openness in the adoption. Those who ranked in the middle in collaboration tended to be committed to making openness work but were having difficulty on certain issues. Those families who ranked the highest exhibited the attitude that openness was in their child's best interest and both sets of adults had found a comfortable way to interact.
McRoy, R. G.; Grotevant, H. D.; and White, K. L. Openness in Adoption: New Practices, New
Issues. New York: Praeger, 1988.
Among the conclusions reached by the authors is that there is more overall satisfaction by all
members of the adoption triad in semi open than in fully open adoptions. Among the problems
reported were the continuing pain felt by Birth parents. Adoptive parents reported feeling
burdened in preparing for the meetings with Birth parents.
McRoy, R. G., and Grotevant, H. D. "Open Adoptions: Practice and Policy Issues." Journal of
Social Work and Human Sexuality v 6, n 3 (May 1988): 199-132.
Presents findings from an exploratory study which examines the impact of traditional, semi open
and fully disclosed adoption on adoptive and birth parents. The initial findings from this sample
of 17 families suggest that the degree of acceptable openness varies from family to family.
McRoy, R. G., and Grotevant, H. D. "American Experience and Research on Openness." British
Journal of Adoption and Fostering v 15, n 4 (1991): 99-111.
This study identified 33 types of open arrangements ranging from very confidential to direct
contact between parties. A key preliminary finding from this study is identifying the changes in
the family process and family dynamics over the course of time in open adoptions.
Grotevant, H. D.; McRoy, R. G.; Elde, C. L.; and Fravel, D. L. "Adoptive Family System
Dynamics: Variations by Level of Openness in the Adoption." Family Process v 33, n 2 (June
This study looked at various levels of openness in adoption from the perspective of the adoptive
parents in 190 adoptive families. In general, when compared with parents in confidential
adoptions, those in open adoptions reported higher levels of acknowledgment of the adoption,
empathy toward the Birth parents and their child, a stronger sense of permanence in the
relationship with their child as projected into the future, and less fear that the birth mother might
try to reclaim her child.
Schmid, K. "Intergenerational Relationships in Adoptive Families: Adoptive Parents'
Interpretations." Ph.D. diss., University of Minnesota, 1994.
The responses of 380 adoptive parents to a semi-structured interview were analyzed.
Grandparents were described as less supportive of open adoption than of adoption in general.
When parents discussed the grandparents' reactions to open adoption it was usually to describe
the grandparents' fear of reclaiming and concerns about open adoption.
McRoy, R. G.; Grotevant, H. D.; and Ayers-Lopez, S. Changing Practices in Adoption. Austin,
Texas: Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, 1994.
This longitudinal study of openness in adoption examines the issue from the points of view of
adoptive parents (N=190), adopted children (N=171+), Birth Parents (N=169), and adoption
agencies. The participants in this study were interviewed between 1987 and 1992, when the
children were between the ages of four and twelve. Sixty-two families had confidential
adoptions, 69 had mediated, and 59 families had fully disclosed adoptions.
For the adoptive parents, teh concern that openness would lead to unwanted intrusions by the
birth parent ws found to be groundless. The majority of parents were satisfied with the level of
contact between the child and the Birth parents. Parents who were dissatisfied with the level of
contact were those who wanted more contact with the birth parent than was possible. Fear that
the birth parent would reclaim the child was lowest among the parents with fully disclosed
adoptions. In both confidential and mediated adoptions adoptive parents' fear was higher that
the child would be reclaimed. Reasons given for the heightened fear included stereotypical
views about birth parents and awareness of media portrayals and court cases dramatizing birth
parents reclaiming their children.
Regardless of type of adoption they were involved in, the children expressed the desire to know
more about their birth parents. Specifically, children with less knowledge about birth parents
wondered about their health and about what they looked like. Children with more information
wondered about when they would see their birth parents again and about birth siblings.
Most birth parents found openness to be a satisfactory arrangement. Those with fully disclosed
placements were less likely to feel regret about placing the child for adoption. They also
reported feeling no jealousy or competitiveness with the adoptive families.
Christian, C. L. "Birth mother Role Adjustment in Fully-Disclosed, Mediated and Confidential
Adoptions." Master's Thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1995.
Seventy-five birth mothers with differing levels of openness in their adoptions were studied four
to twelve years after placing a child. The researcher sought to determine the impact, if any, of
the varying levels of openness on the adjustment of the biological mother.
The results indicate that birth mothers in time-limited mediated adoptions have the most
difficulty adjusting to the adoption process.
Fravel, D. L. "Boundary Ambiguity Across Levels of Adoption Openness." Ph.D. diss.,
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Minnesota, 1995.
The author studied 20 couples randomly selected from participants in a larger survey on
openness and examined the physical and psychological presence of the birth mother in the
adoptive family, from the prospective of the adoptive parents.
No differences in degree of psychological presence by level of adoption openness for fathers was
found. For mothers, however, there were significant differences by level of openness. The level
of psychological presence increased along with an increase in the level of openness, from
confidential to mediated to fully disclosed adoptions.
Mendenhall, T. J.; Grotevant, H. D.; and McRoy, R. G. "Adoptive Couple: Communication and
Changes Made in Openness Levels." Family Relations v 45, n 2 (April 1996): 223-29.
The communication skills of a group of adoptive couples (N=10 couples) that had increased their
level of adoption openness from mediated to fully disclosed was compared with a group (N= 16
couples) that remained in mediated arrangements. Couples with the greatest levels of openness
were found to have higher levels of self-disclosure, listener's skills, empathy,
continuity/tracking, respect and regard, and global communication facility than couples in the
Wrobel, G. M.; Ayers-Lopez, S.; Grotevant, H. D.; McRoy, R. G.; and Friedrick, M. "Openness
in Adoption and the Level of Child Participation." Child Development v 67, n 5 (1996): 2358-74.
One hundred and seventy-one children were studied to examine how their role in open adoptions
influenced their conceptual understanding of what adoption means, general self-worth,
satisfaction with level of openness, and curiosity about Birth parents. The children in the study
were all adopted from private agencies before their first birthday and were between the ages of 4
and 12 years at the time of the study. Fifty-seven children were in confidential adoptions, 14
children were in time mediated adoptions, 45 were in ongoing mediated adoptions, and 55 were
in fully disclosed adoptions.
On an individual level, children in all types of adoptions in this study reported positive levels of
self-esteem, curiosity about their Birth parents, and satisfaction with their openness situation.
Across all levels of openness, children approaching adolescence were generally less satisfied
with their level of adoptive openness and were more curious about their Birth parents.
Grotevant, H. D.; Fravel, D. L.; Gorall, D.; and Piper, J. "Narratives of Adoptive Parents:
Perspectives from Individual and Couple Interviews." Monographs of the Society for Research v
64, n 2 (1999): 69-83.
The researchers examined family narratives in a sample of 27 adoptive families. One third of the
families had confidential adoptions, one third had ongoing mediated adoptions, and one third had
fully disclosed adoptions.
For some couples, the story telling proceeded in a linear fashion, while other couples told their
story in a more non-linear fashion. For wives, greater overall narrative coherence in the couple
discussion than in the individual interview was significantly related to less marital satisfaction.
A key finding was that individual interviews of adoptive parents in more open adoptions
demonstrated more coherence than the interviews of adoptive parents in confidential or mediated
adoptions. The researchers conclude that because families with confidential or mediated
adoptions have only partial relationships with their child's birth family members it is more
difficult for them to have the information they need to create and tell a coherent story.
The authors make recommendations for using the narrative process in helping pre adoptive
families to think about developing a "story" that is inclusive of a child's birth culture.
2. Drasin, R. E. "The Impact of Closed, Semi-Open, and Open Adoption on Childrens Psychological Development." Ph.D. diss., The University of Michigan, 1994.
This study compared the psychological adjustment of 39 children between the ages of 5 and 10 years old living in a variety of adoption arrangements. Standardized tests including the Wechsler Primary and Preschool Scale of Intelligence, the Child Behavior Checklist, and the Teachers Report Form, and interviews were utilized by the researcher. A key finding was that regardless of the level of contact the children expressed ambivalent feelings about adoption and a desire to know more about their birthparents.
Overall, children in open (N=8) semi-open (N=7), and closed adoptions (N=11)exhibited few differences in their psychological adjustment. All three groups of children fell within the normal range of psychological development. Children in the semi-open adoptions appeared to be experiencing the most difficulties.
1. Fratter, J. "Parties in the Triangle." Adoption and Fostering v 15, n 4 (1991): 91-98.
This British study of 22 adoptive families found that some form of continuing contact could work well for families with special needs children. The nature of the contact with birthparents varied widely. Initially, 16 families felt that ongoing contact with birthparents was a positive experience for their children. A key element, as described by the adoptive parents, was the ability of the birthparents to accept their changed role.
The families were reinterviewed three years later. All of those who initially felt positive about openness had not changed their opinions. Four birthparents were reinterviewed. They also felt the ongoing contact had been a positive experience for themselves, as well as the children and adoptive parents.
Fratter, J.; et al. Permanent Family Placement: A Decade of Experience. London: BAAF, 1991.
2. Berry, M. "Adoptive Parents Perceptions of, and Comfort with, Open Adoption." Child Welfare v 72, n 3 (1993): 231-53.
This article presents the results of a survey of 1,268 adoptive parents in California. The study was designed to learn about the correlates of openness in adoption and the predictors of comfort with openness. Preplacement sharing of information and postplacement contact was fairly common in this sample of adoptions finalized between 1988 and 1989. Postplacement contact was most likely in adoptions of infants, in adoptions of children with no history of mistreatment, and in adoptions by relatives.
Predictors of high levels of comfort with open adoption were: 1) the adoptive parents had planned the contact, 2) the childs absence of history of mistreatment, 3) the biological mothers level of education, 4) the adoptive mothers older age, and 5) preplacement meeting between the two sets of parents. Among the groups with low levels of comfort with open adoption, those who met the biological parent prior to placement report significantly higher levels of comfort with postplacement contact. Adoptive parents in transracial adoptions were no different than same race adopters in terms of comfort.
Those adopting through private agencies experienced the least direct contact--primarily mail-only contact, and reported the highest comfort levels with contact. Independent adopters experienced more in-person contacts with biological parents and also reported high comfort levels. Adoptive parents using public agencies reported lower levels of comfort with open adoption. The researchers attribute this to, in many cases, the child having been abused by the biological parent.
There were high levels of uncertainty among the adoptive parents regarding the long-range effect of openness on the child and on their family.
Berry, M. "The Practice of Open Adoption: Findings From a Study of 1396 Adoptive Families." Children and Youth Services Review v 13, n 5-6 (1991): 379-95.
Berry, Marianne; Dylla, Debora J. Cavazos; and Needell, Barbara. "The Role of Open Adoption in the Adjustment of Adopted Children and Their Families." Children and Youth Services Review v 20, n 1-2 (1998): 151.
3. Neil, E. "The Sibling Relationships of Adopted Children and Patterns of Contact after Adoption." Adoption & Fostering v 23, n 1 (Spring 1999): 59-60.
This article presents preliminary findings from a study of 209 adopted children and focuses on
results related to sibling relationships. Eighty-five of the adopted children had birth siblings.
Over half of the children had siblings living elsewhere in two or more locations. Thirty-two
percent of the children with siblings who had been adopted had a birth sibling in their adoptive
family. Ongoing contact was more likely when a sibling lived with a grandparent or aunt/uncle
than with a birth parent.
Adoptive & Birth Parents
1. Bailey, J. M. "Making the Adoption
Decision: A Study of Birthmothers." Ph.D. diss., The Union
Twenty-five birthmothers who were voluntary placing their
infants in an open adoption were interviewed. The study looked
at the childhood experiences, current status, and feelings
of these women to determine if there were patterns of similar
internal and external experiences.
Among the findings reported were experiences of transiency,
disconnection, and loss in the lives of the young women.
2. Lancette, J., and McClure, B. A. "Birthmothers:
Grieving the Loss of a Dream." Journal of Mental Health
Counseling v 14, n 1 (1992): 84-96.
This article examines the grief reactions of five women
who placed their infants in open adoptions. The women had
placed their children within the two years prior to the interviews.
Several stages of grief were experienced by the women, including:
denial, anger, guilt, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
A major source of grief was the loss of dreams and fantasies
associated with motherhood, marriage, and the family.
3. Lauderdale, J. L., and Boyle, J. S. "Infant Relinquishment
Through Adoption." Journal of Nursing Scholarship
v 26, n 3 (Fall 1994): 213-17.
Twelve birthmothers were interviewed about their experiences
using open-ended questions. Birthmothers who experienced open
adoption showed attachment to their fetuses and sought support
and prenatal care. Birthmothers who experienced closed adoption
described nonattachment to their pregnancies, chose to hide
their pregnancy, did not receive prenatal care, and experienced
difficulty accepting the loss of their child.
Lauderdale, J. L. "The Unbroken Cord: The Experience
of Infant Relinquishment Through Adoption." Ph. D. diss.,
The University of Utah, 1992.
4. Blanton, T. L., and Deschner, J. "Biological Mother's
Grief: The Postadoptive Experience in Open Versus Confidential
Adoption." Child Welfare v 69, n 6 (1990): 525-35.
The study participants included 59 women who had placed
their children for adoption through an agency at least one
year before the study -- 18 via open adoption and 41 via confidential
adoption. The women ranged in age from 16 to 45 years. The
participants were overwhelmingly Caucasian. The results of
the survey indicate that mothers relinquishing a child in
open adoptions experience more grief symptoms in the immediate
postadoption period than mothers with confidential adoption
arrangements, or bereaved parents.
The authors caution that all birthmothers in this survey
were women who had experienced adoption through agency programs
and the results may not be generalized to a broader population
5. Belbas, N. F. "Staying in Touch: Empathy in Open Adoptions."
Smith College Studies in Social Work v 57, n 3 (1987):
To explore aspects of empathy in open adoptions, 12 adoptive
families in open adoptions were interviewed. Seven families
had minimum contact, two had moderate contact, and three had
maximum openness. The author found that families with maximum
contact were less likely to worry about kidnaping, while parents
who had letter-only contact were those most worried about
the biological parents seeking to take the child back.
Families in the survey reported friends and family members
were often pessimistic or negative about openness, and suggested
severing ties with the birthparents. Most of the parents were
initially uncertain about openness but felt it was required
by the agencies. All of the parents also reported being unprepared
by previous life experiences to deal with open adoption.
None of the families felt the experience of openness
adversely affected the ties they have with their children,
nor did any of the families report that having contact with
the birthmother made them worry about whether or not the child
6. Dominick, C. Early Contact in Adoption: Contact
Between Birthmothers and Adoptive Parents at the Time of and
After the Adoption. Wellington, New Zealand: Research
Series No. 10. Research Section, Department of Social Welfare,
Adoptive parents and birthmothers in 527 adoptions, approximately
half of which involved contact between the two sets of parents,
participated in this study designed to ascertain their reactions
to the contact. The key findings demonstrate that all parties
benefitted from openness. Adoptive parents reported that contact
with birthmothers increased their feelings of security as
parents and deepened their relationships with their child.
Birthmothers reported that contact provided them with needed
reinforcement that their decision to place the child was the
right one and that their child was being well cared for.
7. Van Keppel, M. "Openness in Adoption: Birth Parents
and Negotiated Adoption Agreements." Adoption and
Fostering v 15, n 4 (1991): 81-90.
The author surveyed 72 Australian birthmothers and 2
birthfathers, 64 of the women had experienced closed adoptions.
Nearly all reported that negotiating arrangements to suit
both adoptive and birthparents was the most beneficial to
8. Demick, J. "Adaptation of Marital Couples to Open
Versus Closed Adoption: A Preliminary Investigation."
In Parental Development, edited by J. Demick, K. Bursick,
and R. DiBiasse, 175-201. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawerence Erlbaum
and Associates, 1993.
Thirty couples, 15 in open adoptions and 15 in closed
adoptions, all of whom had adopted healthy infants within
the past two years, participated in this exploratory survey.
The two groups did not differ from one another on the major
adjustment and/or quality of life measures.
Those in closed adoptions expressed more concern about
their attachment to their infant than did those practicing
open adoption. Those practicing closed adoption also tended
more than those in open adoptions to perceive their infant
as demanding and bothersome.
The group with open adoptions were more concerned with
political, social, intellectual, and cultural activities than
were the closed adoption group.
Clayman, N. H., and Demick, J. "The Adoptive Parenting
Experience: Is It Perceived as Different from Biological Parenting?"
Unpublished manuscript, ca 1987.
Based on a study of 38 adoptive parents, the authors
concluded that adoptive parents were more likely to acknowledge
a difference between biological and adoptive parenting.
Silverstein, D. R., and Demick, J. "Toward an Organizational-Relational
Model of Open Adoption." Family Process v 33,
n 2 (June 1994): 111-24.
9. Etter, J. "Levels of Cooperation and Satisfaction in
56 Open Adoptions." Child Welfare v 72, n 3 (1993):
This survey was designed to investigate whether biological
and adoptive parents could cooperate with each other in open
mediated adoptions. The sample population included 55 adoptive
mothers and 38 adoptive fathers and 32 biological mothers
and 4 biological fathers. "Mediated" refers to the
concept of birthparents and adoptive parents working with
a mediator to develop guidelines for future communication
Adoptive parents reported that no biological parent broke
the agreement by pressuring adoptive parents or visiting unannounced.
Of the adoptive parents, 98.2 percent kept their agreements
with respect to visits. Only one family reported not allowing
the biological mother to visit as required in their agreement.
Typically, visits were arranged for 2-3 times per year.
Both biological and adoptive parents showed high levels
of satisfaction with their open adoptions four and one-half
years after the adoption.
The author focuses on three factors which she believes
contributed to the success of the participants surveyed: 1)
all participants chose the level of openness they desired
before matching; 2) extensive education for both adoptive
parents and birthparents; and 3) explicit contracts with the
expectations of all parts explained in writing.
Etter, J. "Use of Mediated Agreements in Adoptions."
Mediation Quarterly v 22 (Winter 1988): 383-89.
Etter, J., and Chally, J. Adoption Mediation Training
Manual. Eugene, OR: Adoption Teamwork Press, 1988.
Etter, J., and Giovannini, M. Documentation Project: The
Success Rate of Mediated Adoption Agreements, 1990 Pilot Survey
of 56 Open Adoptions. Portland, OR: Open Adoption and
Family Services, 1990.
10. Gross, H. E. "Open Adoption: A Research-Based
Literature Review and New Data." Child Welfare
v 77, n 3 (1993): 269-84.
The author reports on her ongoing study of openness and
findings as they relate to the previous research. Of 32 adoptive
couples in the authors study, 84 percent were mainly
satisfied with the open arrangements. Of the 16 biological
mothers interviewed, only one was dissatisfied with the level
of openness. Satisfaction was based on level of contact, overall
evaluation of open adoption, and attitude changes since placement.
Gross, H. E. "Variants of Open Adoptions: The Early
Years." Marriage and Family Review v 25, n 1-2
11. Siegel, D. H. "Open Adoption of Infants: Adoptive Parents'
Perceptions of Advantages and Disadvantages." Social
Work v 38, n 1 (1993): 15-23.
This study addressed adoptive parents feelings
about their open adoptions during their childrens infancy
and early childhood. The sample group of 21 parents were families
from the New England area who responded to an open letter
placed by the researcher. Five of the open adoptions were
through an agency. The level of openness experienced by the
individual couples varied considerably.
The respondents reported a wide range of initial reservations
and apprehension about open adoption arrangements. Only four
respondents expressed no initial misgivings about the arrangement.
Most reported they chose to pursue an open adoption, despite
their initial misgivings, because closed adoptions were unavailable.
Although several disadvantages of open adoptions were
reported, not one respondent expressed regret at having an
12. Kaainoa, R. P. "A Study of the Relationship Between
Adoptive Mothers and Birth Mothers in Open Adoption."
Masters Thesis, California State University, Fullerton,
Five birthmothers and 15 adoptive mothers were interviewed
in this exploratory study of relationships in open adoptions.
The adoptions had occurred within five years of the study.
The major obstacle in the relationship for birthmothers was
their grief over loss of the child. For adoptive mothers,
negotiation of boundaries and fulfillment of competing needs
was the most difficult aspects. Overall, both sets of mothers
were somewhat satisfied with their relationships.
13.Becker, K. W. "The Effect of High and Low Levels of
Contact in Open Adoption on the Experiences of Adoptive Parents
and Birth Parents." Ph.D. diss., University of Northern
Adoptive couples (N=72) and birthparents (N=36) in open
adoptions reporting high levels of contact were compared with
adoptive couples and birthparents in open adoptions reporting
low levels of contact. Differences between adoptive parents
serving as the primary contact and adoptive parents serving
as the secondary contact with birthfamilies were also analyzed.
No significant differences were found in the areas of
marital satisfaction, communication, conflict resolution,
cohesion and adaptability between the high and low contact
level adoptive parents. No differences were found in the levels
of grief experienced by birthmothers in the low and high level
The study found that adoptive parents who serve as the
primary contact with birthparents perceive their marital relationship
as less satisfying and believe that problems with communication
and conflict resolution exist within their marriage.
14. Waddoups, J. "Open Adoption, Human Capital Formation,
and Uncertainty." Journal of Family and Economic Issues
v 15, n 1 (1994)): 5-21.
Based on the responses by 107 adoptive parents the author
concludes that fear of not bonding with the child was the
primary concern of adoptive parents contemplating an open
15. Robinson, S. A. "Adoption Anxiety Among Prospective
Adoptive Parents." Masters Thesis, University of
Nevada, Las Vegas, 1995.
This research explores the relationship between the gender
of the adoptive parent and the anxiety they feel toward the
birthmother in open adoptions. Forty-eight adoptive parents
all recruited through Catholic Charities Adoption Services
participated in the study.
The primary finding was that mothers tended to be more
anxious than fathers about their relationship with the birthmother
before finalization of the adoption.
16. Daily, C. A. "Experiences of Adoptive Parents
in Open Adoptions: A Descriptive Study." Masters
Thesis, Smith College School for Social Work, 1997.
Ten families with 15 adopted children participated in
this study of open adoption. The major finding was that despite
the complexities and additional responsibilities presented
by open adoption, all of the adoptive parents felt positive
about the arrangement.
17. Hanssen, G. M. "Extending Families: How Adoptive Parents
Transition to Openness." Ph.D. diss., Brandeis University,
The author interviewed 30 adoptive families to compare
those with ongoing, direct contact with birthparents with
those without contact. Few differences in the experiences
or beliefs of the adoptive parents prior to adoption were
found. However, parents with more open adoptions were found
to be more extroverted. Less extroverted parents experienced
a more portracted transition to openness.
18. Yngvesson, B. "Negotiating Motherhood: Identity
and Difference in "Open" Adoptions." Law
and Society Review v 31, n 1 (April 1997): 31-80.
Based on interviews with six birth and six adoptive parents
in open adoption arrangements, the author contends that these
relationships fall into familiar categories centering around
nature and law, as well as introducing new categories unfamiliar
to legal classification.
19. Balke, T. W. T. B. "The Perceptions of The Roles of
Birthfathers in Adoption: A New Zealand Perspective."
Ph. D. diss., University of Minnesota, 1996.
This study sought to examine the relationships between
birthfathers (N=10) and their adopted children in both contact
and noncontact adoptive situations.
As well as interviewing birthfathers, interviews were
undertaken with birthmothers (N=16), adoptive mothers (N=20)
and adoptive fathers (N=20). Several themes emerged. In adoptive
families in which contact between child and birthfather occurred
each viewed the other as part of an extended family network.
Most of the adoptive families saw contact with the birthfather
as beneficial for the child and anticipated more contact as
the child became older.
20. Flores de Kistler, M. J. "The Transcultural Adoption
Experience." Ph.D. diss., California State University,
Long Beach, CA, 1995.
Seventeen two-parent families and one single-parent male
and female who had adopted children of different ethnic backgrounds
completed a self-administered questionnaire designed by the
researcher to examine their adoption experiences. The children
were described as African American, Hispanic, and Native American.
The majority of the parents felt it was important for
the child to know about his or her culture of origin. All
except one parent reported that the children were initially
accepted by their family members, and friends. Some of the
families reported that the adoption had caused them to become
more aware of and sensitive to the problems encountered by
members of other cultures.
When interviewed about specific aspects of the adoption
process (all had adopted through the same agency) most expressed
positive opinions. All felt open adoption was a positive choice.
New York Studies
The primary research in openness that has utilized adoptive
families from the New York area is the work conducted by Rosemary
Avery, who is at Cornell University. She has published numerous
articles focusing on specific aspects of the information gained
from her study. Judith Lee, a private practitioner in New
York City, recently released findings from her study, which
focused on adoptive families who had adopted through a suburban
New York law firm specializing in private adoptions.
1. Avery, Rosemary J. "Information Disclosure and Openness
in Adoption: State Policy and Empirical Evidence." Children
and Youth Services Review v 20, n 1-2 (1998):57-85.
This research focused on attitudes toward, and experiences
with, openness in adoption in a sample of 1,274 adoptive parents
in 743 adoptive homes in New York State. Results
indicate that a substantial majority of adoptive parents
in the study favor a change in State statutes allowing greater
openness in adoption and that adoptive mothers are more open
to the concept of information disclosure than adoptive fathers.
Open adoptions were practiced in only a minority of adoptions
in this study. When contact does exist, it is far more likely
to be with a birth mother than a birth father. Openness in
adoption was found to differ by age, race, and by prior experience
with fostering or adoption.
The children of adoptive parents with the highest levels
of education were less likely to have any contact with birthparents.
African American adopted children were the least likely to
have contact with birthparents.
2. Avery, R. J., and Ashton, J. Adoptive Parents
Attitudes Toward Openness in Adoption Records: A Study of
New York State Adoptive Parents: 1994-1995. New York:
New York State Citizens Coalition for Children, Inc.,
This study sought to identify the opinions of adoptive
parents in New York State related to an adult adoptees right
to obtain a copy of his/her original birth certificate. Older
adoptive mothers were more supportive of open adoption records,
while Caucasian adoptive fathers and both adoptive mothers
and adoptive fathers who had prior experience with fostering
or adoption were less accepting of the concept of open records.
Avery, R. J. Information Disclosure and Openness in Adoption:
State Policy and Empirical Evidence. Photocopied Manuscript.
3. Lee, J. S., and Twaite, J. A. "Open Adoption and Adoptive
Mothers: Attitudes Toward Birthmothers, Adopted Children,
and Parenting." American Journal of Orthopsychiatry
v 67, n 4 (October 1997): 576-584.
This research analyzed the relationship between contact
between adoptive (N=238) and biological mothers and the adoptive
mothers attitudes toward: 1) the biological mother;
2) the child; and 3) the nature of parenting.
The primary finding was that adoptive mothers who had
met the birthmother prior to the childs birth had more
favorable attitudes toward both the biological mother and
the child. Other findings were that increased contact between
the adoptive and biological mothers resulted in adoptive mothers
perceiving their child as both competent and controllable.
In addition, when those adoptive mothers having no contact
at all with the biological mother were compared to those who
did have contact, it was found that adoptive mothers who had
some type of contact were less likely to avoid communicating
with their child, and to be less intrusive, as well as more
likely to accept age-appropriate developmental milestones.
Lee, J. S. "Attitudes of Adoptive Mothers Toward Adopted
Children and Their Birthmothers as Related to Communication
Between Adoptive and Biological Mothers." Ph.D. diss.,
New York University, New York, 1994.
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