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

19 Scopus citations

Abstract

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
Volume67
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by funding from the American Psychological Foundation’s Wayne F. Placek Grant awarded to Rachel H. Farr (Wave 2). The first author was also supported by funds from the Rudd Family Foundation Chair in Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Jessie Bernard Outstanding Research Proposal from a Feminist Perspective Award from the National Council on Family Relations. The second author received funding from the Center for Research on Families at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. We thank the members of our research team who have contributed to the design and execution of the overall project, particularly our coding teams at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of Kentucky. We are also grateful to all the adoptive families who generously shared their experiences with us and have made this research possible. An earlier version of this manuscript was presented at the annual conference for the National Council on Family Relations in November 2015.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 National Council on Family Relations

Keywords

  • 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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