MON July 9, 2018 MON July 9, 2018
1:30 pm 1:30 pm
International II International II

Kyle Simon

Graduate student in psychology, University of Kentucky

Rachel Farr

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky

Roberta Messina

Graduate student in psychology, Université Libre de Brussels

Jorge Gato

Postdoctoral Fellow, Faculty of Psychology and Sciences of Education, University of Porto

Rhoda Scherman

Professor, Health Sciences and Psychology, Auckland University of Technology

Gabriela Misca

Professor in developmental psychology, University of Worcester

Tony Tan

Associate Professor, College of Education, University of South Florida

Symposium: Adoption and same-sex parent families: International perspectives on research, policy and practice

Associations of adoption, sexual minority parent, and racial-ethnic identity with children’s outcomes and understanding of identity

How does identity-based socialization occur in diverse families? What forms of socialization have not yet been explored? Further, how does socialization influence children’s outcomes and their understanding of identity? Here we investigate adoptive communicative openness (ACO), sexual minority parent socialization (SMPS) and racial-ethnic socialization among a sample (n = 96) of lesbian, gay, and heterosexual (LGH) adoptive families with school-age children (Mage = 8, SD = 1.66 years old). We extend these findings to determine whether identity-based (i.e., adoption, sexual minority, or racial-ethnic) socialization influences children’s outcomes such as global self-worth and children’s sense of belonging (attachment). Finally, we present results on how ACO impacts children’s understanding of adoption (CUA). This work utilized a mixed-methods approach through interviews and self-report measures that have been previously used in developmental psychology broadly (e.g., Inventory of parent and peer attachment, Harter’s scale of self-perception) and previous longitudinal adoption studies (e.g., NSAP racial-cultural socialization, ACO codebook, children’s understanding of adoption scale) in addition to the relatively new SMPS measure. Approximately half of the LGH adoptive parents transracially adopted (80% of parents were White, 40% of children were White) typically represented by White parents adopting Black children. All children were adopted as infants in the United States through private domestic adoption.
Hierarchical linear modeling analyses suggest that parents who completed transracial adoptions engaged in ACO at lower rates than parents who completed same-race adoptions. Parents who completed transracial adoptions also engaged in greater levels of racial-ethnic socialization compared to parents who did not complete transracial adoptions. Parent race (i.e., White parents versus parents of color) did not predict differences in identity-based socialization (i.e., ACO, SMPS, racial-ethnic). No type of identity-based socialization practices was predictive of children’s global self-worth or sense of belonging. Additionally, CUA was predicted by age, sex, and transracial adoption status but not parent ACO. Children’s understanding of SMPS was only predicted by age. Results suggest that parents may differentially use each identity-based socialization rather than an overall increase in socialization. Further, research on CUA suggests that age is the major predictor of understanding adoption. Here we find that sex and transracial adoption status also contribute to this knowledge. Differences in identity-based socialization practices, descriptive information on an understudied construct, SMPS, and children’s understanding of adoption will be discussed. These findings have implications by providing additional perspective on who is engaging in adoption and how parents talk with their children in an everchanging climate of adoption policy.

“Why Don't I Have A Mom? Why Don’t I Have A Dad?”. The Identity Construction Process of children adopted by same-sex parents

Little research has explored the experience of same-sex adoption, especially from the children’s perspective. What does it feel like to be adopted by two dads or by two mums? How do adoption’s challenges intersect with the identity construction process of these children? The purpose of this study was to analyse the central identity-related issues raised by adopted children of same-sex couples across four developmental stages: early childhood, middle childhood, pre-adolescence and adolescence. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 46 adopted children (aged from 3 to 18 years) and with 62 (46 gays and 16 lesbians) sexual-minority adoptive parents. Thematic analyses revealed that children adopted by LG parents deal with unique challenges related to the intersection of adoptive and sexual minority statuses.

During early childhood, children adopted by same sex couples are confronted to understand the difference between the biological and the affective side of parenting. They are fascinated by the mystery of the origins and of the pregnancy. They start to label themselves as “adopted by two dads or two mums”, and to have a rudimental knowledge of the implications of the same sex parenting. During middle childhood, children have a better understanding of the meaning and implications of being adopted, as well as of their adoptive family’s minority status. At this stage they also develop a realistic understanding of the irreversibility of adoption. This realization implicates for them not only the definitive loss of their birth parents, but also the impossibility of having a mother or a father in their adoptive family. A recurrent, central question asked by these children is: “Why don’t I have a mum? Why don’t I have a dad?”. Our results show that this “mum” or “dad”, absent physically, can be very present in adopted children’ imaginary. During pre-adolescence, curiosity and thoughts about birth parents often increase. In parallel, adoptees may experience teasing episodes, which can contribute to convey a negative image of their adoptive family. In this period, adoptees can experience a great opposition to adoptive parents, together with the wish to change their family structure and to have a mother or a father in order to be “like the others”. During adolescence, the defiance gradually gives way to a more mature reflection. In this period, adoptees develop stronger gratitude and loyalty towards their adoptive parents, which helps them to reduce the intensity of these contradictory feelings and to become proud of their same-sex family.

The findings of this study have important implications. Since more and more countries are opening adoption to same sex couples, providing a better knowledge of the identity-related issues raised by adopted children of same-sex couples is necessary in order to guide professionals, to help same sex adoptive parents in their parental tasks and, consequently, to improve the experience of the adoptees.

What Matters to Attitudes Toward Same-sex Adoption? A Study Among Students from Helping Professions in Portugal

We sought to characterize predictors of attitudes toward lesbian and gay parent families (LGPF), held by students enrolled in psychology, social work, medicine, nursing, elementary, and preschool education programs in Portugal. We examined the predictive value of students’ (N = 600) sociodemographic characteristics (gender, interpersonal contact with lesbians and gay men, gender role attitudes, and attitudes toward lesbians and gay men) when assessing their attitudes toward LGPF. Each participant read a vignette describing an adoption of a child by lesbian and gay persons. After reading the vignette, participants rated four different aspects of the future development of the adopted child (psychosocial adjustment, victimization, psychological disturbance, and normative sexuality) and three factors related to parental competence (stability, concerns about child abuse, and general parental aptitude). Participant’s gender, interpersonal contact with lesbians and gay men, and gender role attitudes had indirect effects on attitudes toward LGPF, through attitudes toward lesbians and gay men. The results clearly highlight the central role of social attitudes and the need for cultural competence training of future helping professionals that encourages interpersonal contact with non-heterosexuals and discourages traditional gender roles and negative attitudes toward lesbian and gay men.

New Zealand professionals’ beliefs and attitudes about placing children with same-sex couples.

Currently, there are 25 nations that recognise same-sex marriage. New Zealand is one of those countries, having passed its marriage equality legislation in 2013. Commensurate with that law change, lesbian and gay couples also became eligible to adopt as a couple, whereas prior to that, only married couples could adopt children in New Zealand. These global trends appear to be legitimising same-sex relationships. Yet, international research shows that despite statutory rights to marry—and by extension, adopt—same-sex couples continue to experience difficulties when trying to adopt, ostensibly perpetrated by biased adoption workers and agencies. For lesbian and gay couples, is winning their rights to legally marry merely the first step? Do same-sex couples also have to prepare themselves to battle individual and/or agency biases in their quests to adoptive parents? That is the question at the heart of our project.

All participants were recruited via professional bodies who advertised or passed along information about the study including a direct link to the online anonymous questionnaire. Completion of the survey signalled informed consent and no identifying information was collected from participants at any point in the questionnaire. Because studying attitudes and beliefs on socially sensitive topics are highly susceptible to social desirability, for our study we utilized multiple methods to assess and corroborate participants’ beliefs about placing children with same-sex parents. Data were collected using SurveyMonkey. The first part of the survey asked demographic questions such as age, gender, sexual orientation, religiosity, occupation, education, experience working directly with same-sex clients, etc. The second part of the survey obtained data on participants’ beliefs about lesbian and gay adoptions using 24 negative-meaning and positive-meaning statements on a 6-point Likert Scale (1 = Strongly Disagree, 6 = Strongly Agree). The last part of the survey involved the use of a vignette describing a prospective adoptive couple whose gender was ambiguous. Participants were then asked a series of questions based on the couple being male and the same questions for if the couple was female.

A total of 313 respondents completed at least part of the survey. The most pertinent descriptive and inferential results will be discussed. In brief, we found that respondents who were female, younger aged, non-religious, and held liberal political views were more supportive of gay and lesbian adoption.

Overall, our findings strongly mirror those of similar overseas studies. This will be briefly discussed. How the results affect same-sex adopters will also be discussed. Implications of the findings for adoption practice and training will be considered. Plans for expanding the study to other countries will also be outlined.