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Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Jun 22;16(12). pii: E2212. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16122212.

Adverse Childhood Experiences of Children Adopted from Care: The Importance of Adoptive Parental Warmth for Future Child Adjustment.

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Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer), School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, 1-3 Museum Place, Cardiff CF10 3BD, UK.
School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Tower Building, 70 Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3AT, UK.
School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Tower Building, 70 Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3AT, UK.


We investigated the relationship between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and children's internalising symptoms and externalising problems in the Wales Adoption Cohort Study, a prospective longitudinal study that used case file records (n = 374) for a sample of British children adopted from care (M = 2 years, 55% male). Parents (n = 96) completed questionnaires at 3-5 months, 15-17 months, and 31-33 months post-placement. We hypothesised that: (1) children adopted from care would have experienced more ACEs than children in the general population; (2) the number of ACEs would be associated with higher internalising symptom and externalising problem scores; and (3) adoptive parental warmth would moderate the relationship between ACEs and post-placement internalising symptoms and externalising problems. Nearly half (42%) of the children experienced four or more ACEs. Internalising symptoms and externalising problems were significantly higher than the UK general population. The number of ACEs was associated with internalising symptoms 3 years post-adoptive placement but this relationship was moderated by adoptive parental warmth. This study profiles the experiences and characteristics of a national sample of adopted children and highlights the potential importance of parent warmth as a factor that ameliorates the impact of ACEs on poor child outcomes.


adoption; adverse childhood experiences (ACEs); child adjustment; looked after; mental health; parental warmth

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