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Nurs Res. 2014 Jan-Feb;63(1):14-25. doi: 10.1097/NNR.0000000000000006.

"Great expectations" of adoptive parents: theory extension through structural equation modeling.

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Karen J. Foli, PhD, RN, is Assistant Professor, School of Nursing and College of Health and Human Sciences; Eunjung Lim, PhD, is Postdoctoral Research Associate, School of Nursing; Susan C. South, PhD, is Assistant Professor, Psychological Sciences; and Laura P. Sands, PhD, is Katherine Birck Professor of Nursing, School of Nursing, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana.



Most of the 2 million adoptive parents in the United States make the transition to parenting successfully. Adoptive parents who do not make the transition easily may put their children at risk for negative outcomes.


The aim of this study was to further refine Foli's midrange theory of postadoption depression, which postulates that fulfillment of expectations is a principal contributor to parental emotional health status, aggravation, and bonding.


The linked dataset (National Survey of Children's Health and National Survey of Adoptive Parents) was used for structural equation modeling. The sample consisted of 1,426 parents with adopted children who had been placed in the home more than 2 years before survey completion.


Special services and child's behaviors were direct determinants of parental expectations, and parental expectations were direct determinants of parental aggravation and parentalbonding. As anticipated, parental expectations served as a mediator between child-related variables and parental outcomes. A path was also found between child's behaviors and special services and parental emotional health status. Child's past trauma was also associated with parental bonding.


Parental expectations showed direct relationships with the latent variables of parental aggravation and bonding. Future research should examine factors associated with early transition when children have been in the adoptive home less than 2 years and include specific expectations held by parents.

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