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Child Dev. 1998 Jun;69(3):791-802.

The psychological adjustment of United States adopted adolescents and their nonadopted siblings.

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  • 1Search Institute, Minneapolis, MN 55415, USA.


Using data from a national sample of 715 United States adoptive families, comparisons were made between adopted adolescents and birth adolescents (children born to the adoptive parents) on the Youth Self-Report (Achenbach), 8 psychological and behavioral adjustment factor scales from the Attitudes and Behaviors survey (Benson), and an identity scale (Search Institute). Multivariate, followed by univariate, analyses of variance showed significant differences between the 2 groups on the psychological factor scales of Licit Drug Use and School Adjustment. A subsample of nonclinically referred adopted adolescents were also compared to norms on the Youth Self-Report. Nonreferred adopted boys showed higher levels of adjustment than the norm group on Withdrawn behaviors. Nonreferred adopted girls showed better adjustment than the norm group on Social Problems and Withdrawn behaviors and poorer adjustment on Delinquent Behavior and Externalizing behavior. (Standardized effect sizes were in the small to moderate range.) These same patterns were evidenced when controlling for ethnicity. These data are examined within Brodzinsky's stress and coping model of adoptee adjustment and support a body of adoption research that finds a pattern of small but significant differences between adopted and nonadopted persons. The differences showing poorer adoptee adjustment in comparison to nonadoptees should not be overstated as is sometimes the case in the adoption clinical literature, and areas in which adoptees evidence higher levels of psychological functioning should be further researched.

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