Religious motivation to adopt and religious meaning in the context of international adoption
The Calvin Adoption Study is a longitudinal study, conducted over a six year time period, of forty-nine children who have been adopted internationally from a wide range of countries. Participants were an average of 4.75 years (SD=4) at adoption and 6.5 years (SD=3.8) at the first study visit. Information about the child’s pre-adoption history, adoptive family characteristics, and parental motivations to adopt were collected at Wave 1 and a comprehensive set of cognitive, emotional, behavioral, social, attachment, and adoptive family functioning outcomes were assessed at Waves 1-4. For the current study, data was utilized in order to examine the influence of religious motivations to adopt on outcomes as well as the use of religious themes to give meaning to the adoptive experience.
Within the sample, 35 adoptive parents indicated some level of religious motivation in their decision to adopt. Participants rated the percent motivation for each motivation type selected and a higher percentage attributed to religious motivations was associated with a larger family size, lower maternal education, and fewer hours worked outside the home by mothers. A series of regressions, controlling for relevant demographic characteristics, examined religious motivation as a predictor of a variety of outcomes. Results revealed that greater religious motivation to adopt predicted better emotional regulation and fewer internalizing and somatization symptoms among adopted children at later study Waves. Greater religious motivation also predicted stricter parent-rated discipline practices and higher parent-rated conduct problems. Religious motivation levels were unrelated to attachment and cognitive outcomes.
Religious meaning in adoption was assessed via a 4-item measure completed by adoptive parents at each of the four Waves. Examination of means across each Wave revealed a fairly high level of religious meaning-making in the sample and stable ratings across the 4 Waves of the study. A series of regressions, utilizing relevant demographic controls revealed that greater use of religious meaning-making (i.e., “God is using this adoption to teach me something”) predicted better cognitive performances for adopted children in the areas of reading and verbal memory, and better emotional and behavioral adjustment in the areas of executive functioning and depression. Additionally, in the final wave of the study, families with greater religious meaning-making reported fewer attachment disturbances and higher adoption success.
In summary, religious motivations to adopt and the use of religious themes in the process of meaning-making in adoption were commonly reported in this sample of internationally adopted families. In the current study, higher levels of of religious motivation and meaning-making were generally associated with positive outcomes across several domains.