TUE July 10, 2018 TUE July 10, 2018
3:30 pm 3:30 pm
Cartier II Cartier II

Sandra Melero

Graduate student in psychology, University of Cadiz

Yolanda Sánchez-Sandoval

Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Cadiz

Albert Lo

Graduate student in psychology, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Harold Grotevant

Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Gretchen Wrobel

Professor of Psychology, Bethel University

Jeanette Conrick

Associate Academic, Department of Social Work, Monash University

Holly Grant-Marsney

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Bridgewater State University

Harold Grotevant

Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Paper session: Adult adoptees

Psychological adjustment in Spanish adult adoptees

As every stage of development, adulthood comprises important changes in people’s lives. According to Havighurst (1972), the period of adulthood involves the resolution of the subsequent tasks: becoming integrated in the working world, choosing a partner, learning how to live with a partner and to have one’s own family, bringing up children, being responsible for a home, assuming some civic responsibilities, and finding a stable social group. In turn, adulthood can be divided in different sub-periods, of which we are interested in young adulthood, which ranges from 18 to 40 or 45 years of age (Arnett et al., 2014). In this sub-period, people assume long-term commitments, specifically to romantic relationships and the labor market.

Previous research on psychological adjustment in adult adoptees is not really conclusive. Some studies found that adopted adults are more likely to have difficulties than their non-adopted peers (Cubito & Brandon, 2000; Levy-Shiff, 2001; Oke, Groza, Park, Kalyanvala, & Shetty, 2015). Other works suggested that psychological adjustment is similar in both groups, but in the adopted group, there are some cases of maladjustment (Loehlin, Horn, & Ernst, 2007).

The main purpose of this work is to analyze the psychological adjustment of a group of young adult domestic adoptees (n = 134) in Spain in comparison to the norms of the general Spanish population. The measure we used was the Symptom Check-List-90-Revised (SCL-90-R), developed by Derogatis (1975). In addition to the principle aim, the current study seeks to identify the influence of certain variables, such as age at adoption or gender, in mental health.

Our findings show that the young adults of our sample obtained significantly higher scores in the SCL-90-R than the general Spanish population, but lower scores than the clinical Spanish population. However, it is important to consider that, on the Global Severity Index (GSI), 65.7% of the adoptees were within the normal range, 24.6% were at risk, and only 9.7% were above the clinical threshold. There were no differences between males and females in any of the subscales of the SCL-90-R. Age at adoption did not have a significant effect on mental health.

This study could contribute to reducing stereotypes about the mental health and adjustment of adopted people. In addition, it shows that some of the adoptees have a real need for psychological support during adulthood; consequently, post-adoption services must be aware of their situation and be prepared to meet their needs.

Trajectories of birth family contact: Implications for psychological adjustment in adopted young adults

Adopted individuals vary widely in their levels and perceptions of post-adoption birth family contact, and these levels and perceptions may change from childhood to adulthood. Extant literature indicates that birth family contact has implications for psychological adjustment in adopted persons; however, no studies have examined the effects of changes in multiple aspects of birth family contact across an extended period of time. The current study utilized a person-centered approach to examine how changes in birth-family contact influence psychological adjustment. More specifically, four multi-group trajectories of birth family contact spanning from middle childhood to young adulthood were utilized in predicting adjustment in a sample of domestically adopted young adults.

Participants included 190 adoptive families who were assessed across four time-points: Wave 1 (middle childhood), Wave 2 (adolescence), Wave 3 (emerging adulthood), and Wave 4 (young adulthood). Adopted individuals were adopted in infancy by same-race couples through private domestic adoptions in the US.

Group-based trajectory modeling was used to create multi-group trajectories across the four waves that were based on three contact variables: adoptee’s frequency of contact with his/her birthmother, adoptee’s satisfaction with contact with his/her birthmother, and the number of people involved in contact across the adoptive and birth families. Contact variables were coded from interviews with adoptive mothers at Wave 1 and from interviews with the adopted individuals at subsequent waves. Psychological adjustment was conceptualized as psychological distress and measured using the global severity index of the Brief Symptom Inventory at Wave 4.

Group-based trajectory modeling identified four distinct multi-group trajectory groups of birth family contact: No Contact, Stopped Contact, Limited Contact, and Extended Contact. Results from linear models indicated that adopted individuals in the Limited Contact group, a group characterized by modest increases in levels of contact and satisfaction that decreases before rebounding slightly, had significantly higher levels of psychological distress than individuals in the Extended Contact group, a group characterized by consistently high levels of contact and satisfaction with contact across the four waves (b = -9.03, SE = 3.85, p = .021). Individuals in the Limited Contact group also had higher levels of psychological distress than individuals in the No Contact group, which is characterized by no birth family contact across the four waves and decreasing satisfaction (b = -7.78, SE = 3.50, p = .028).

Results suggest that instability in contact may lead to higher psychological distress in adopted persons due to the need to constantly navigate new relationships and information. Results also provide implications for support policies concerning birth family contact as well insight for mental health professionals working with adopted persons.

From Research to Practice: What adopted women tell us about their support needs at the time of mothering their own children

Even though the past two decades have seen a growing acknowledgement and interest in understanding and describing the lifelong impact of adoption, little attention has been given to counselling approaches with adopted adults.

A recently completed qualitative Ph.D. inquiry heard from 21 locally adopted, Australian women within the State of Victoria, about their lived experiences as mothers. Semi-structured interviews with 16 participants were analysed thematically and the emerging categories were evaluated by a focus group of 5 additional women who had not participated in the interviews. Participants ranged in age from 29 years to 57 years (mean age of 44 years); and their children ranged in age from 9 months to 24 years of age (mean age of 12 years).

The findings of this research indicate that the participating women viewed their everyday experiences of motherhood through the filter of their adoption experiences, revisiting issues from their own childhoods; managing past and present losses; and renegotiating their identity and family relationships. This has implications for current social work practice at the clinical, programmatic and policy levels, for adopted adults as well as for those children who are being placed for adoption or who live apart from their birth family. These findings also have relevance for other populations, particularly those conceived through donor assisted-reproductive treatments (ART) and surrogacy.

Clinical considerations prompted the development of a model of practice based on the ‘person-in-environment’ social work paradigm. This model, which is discussed in this presentation, can assist the practitioner in their identification, assessment and intervention with adopted adults, particularly where they present to a non-adoption focused service for assistance.

Adolescent and Emerging Adult Adoptees’ Feelings on Adoption and The Impact on Relationships

An adopted person develops a narrative or story to help make sense of his or her adoption. This narrative provides a window into how the adoptee understands the role of adoption in his or her life and articulates feelings and thoughts about it. Adolescent and emerging adult adoptees’ data from the Minnesota-Texas Adoption Research Project (MTARP) were examined. MTARP longitudinally followed 190 adoptive kinship networks, with varying levels of openness in the adoption, from childhood to emerging adulthood.

The current study sought to understand how emotion (affective valence and specific emotions), as identified in the adoption narratives during adolescence and emerging adulthood, related to qualities of their closest emerging adult relationships. It was expected that reflections of early relationships would impact the current evaluation of relationships. The emotions described in these narratives were used to predict relationship qualities (attachment related anxiety and avoidance, relationship satisfaction, and intimacy maturity). It was expected that more positive affect and less negative affect would predict higher levels of attachment security, intimacy, and relationship satisfaction. The change in affect over time (from adolescence to emerging adulthood) and average affect over time were also examined. Specific emotions of positive and negative affect were explored in this study and evaluated for their contribution to emerging adulthood relationship qualities.

Results indicated associations of both negative and positive affect with attachment style in emerging adulthood. Specific emotions were modestly correlated to attachment style and relationship satisfaction. The findings of this study will help to assist research and practitioners understand the application of the adoption narrative in their work, and the translation of adoptive identity into relationship concepts.