Family conflict observations and outcomes among adopted school-age children with Lesbian, Gay, and Heterosexual Parents

Rachel H. Farr, Samuel T. Bruun, Kyle A. Simon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Children's externalizing problems are associated with family conflict among children and their biological parents, yet these linkages have remained unexamined among adoptive or lesbian and gay parent families. Investigating family processes facilitative of adjustment among adoptees, who face unique developmental challenges, is warranted. This multimethod study of 96 (26 lesbian, 29 gay, 41 heterosexual parent) adoptive families examined observations of adoptive family conflict and associations with child adjustment and feelings about adoption (children's Mage = 8 years). The sample was recruited from 5 private, domestic infant adoption agencies across the United States. Parents and children reported about children's externalizing problems and feelings about adoption, respectively. Observations of family conflict interaction were rated from videotaped family discussions. Family interactions were associated with children's behavioral and adoption-specific adjustment, yet analysis of variance and hierarchical linear modeling analyses revealed no differences by parental sexual orientation in family dynamics (i.e., negativity/conflict, positive affect, cohesiveness) or child outcomes. Parents generally reported children to have few externalizing behaviors. Children reported positive feelings, moderate preoccupation, and low negativity about their adoption. These findings extend the family systems literature about conflict and child development among diverse families with sexual minority parents and adopted children. Practitioners who work with adoptive and sexual minority parent families can encourage positive and cohesive family interactions in supporting children's adjustment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)965-974
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2019

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) and the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles to Charlotte J. Patterson (Wave 1). Rachel H. Farr was also supported (Wave 2) by funds from the Rudd Family Foundation Chair in Psychology 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 team, Jessica Cherry, Stefanie Jones, Alex Nelson, and Madison Yee. We are grateful to all the adoptive families who generously shared their experiences with us and have made this research possible. An earlier version of this article was presented at the American Psychological Association Convention in Washington, DC in August 2017.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Psychological Association.


  • Adoption
  • Child externalizing behaviors
  • Family interactions
  • Lesbian and gay parenting
  • Parent- child conflict

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)


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