Birth Family Contact Experiences Among Lesbian, Gay, and Heterosexual Adoptive Parents With School-Age Children

Rachel H. Farr, Yelena Ravvina, Harold D. Grotevant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine how lesbian, gay, and heterosexual adoptive parents navigate openness dynamics with children's birth family across a 5-year period, when children are preschool- to school-age. Background: Few studies regarding birth family contact have included longitudinal data as well as a sample of adoptive parents of varying sexual orientations. Thus, this study used a multiprong theoretical approach grounded in emotional distance regulation, families of choice, and gender theory. Method: A mixed-methods approach with longitudinal quantitative survey and qualitative interview data from 106 lesbian, gay, and heterosexual adoptive parent families was employed to examine the type of contact, its frequency, who was involved, perceptions of this contact, and the extent to which formal agreements exist between adoptive and birth families regarding contact. Results: Findings revealed variations in the status and perceptions of contact across adoptive families. We also discovered that many lesbian and gay adoptive parents reported that birth parents had intentionally selected a same-sex adoptive couple, and birth parents appeared to have distinct reasons for this choice. Conclusion: Although some differences in birth family contact distinguished lesbian, gay, and heterosexual adoptive parent families, these families generally appeared more similar than different. Implications: Implications—particularly a need for demonstrated competencies in adoption openness—are discussed for adoption professionals in policy, practice, and legal realms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-146
Number of pages15
JournalFamily Relations
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 National Council on Family Relations


  • Adoption
  • birth family contact
  • lesbian and gay
  • mixed-methods
  • openness arrangements
  • sexual orientation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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