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Child Welfare. 2002 Mar-Apr;81(2):151-71.

Psychological stress in adoptive parents of special-needs children.

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Social Welfare Evaluation and Research Unit, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, USA.


This article focuses on the nature and extent of parental stress among adoptive parents of special-needs children. In-depth face-to-face interviews of adoptive parents of 35 children were conducted, on average, four months postplacement (but before adoption). One-year follow-up interviews were conducted with parents of 15 (43%) of these children. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected, including parenting stress scores. Results indicated higher than average levels of stress, particularly on subscales related to parent-child dysfunctional interactions and to raising a difficult child. Increased stress levels were associated with poorer family adjustment and with higher levels of child behavior problems. Stress levels remained mostly unchanged over the year. Responses to open-ended questions identified five stress categories: child characteristics, parent-child interactions, family cohesion, parental adjustment, and adoptions service issues. Practice and research implications are discussed.

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