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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.

Author information

1
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. AnthonyRE@cardiff.ac.uk.
2
School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Tower Building, 70 Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3AT, UK. paineAL@cardiff.ac.uk.
3
School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Tower Building, 70 Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3AT, UK. sheltonKH1@cardiff.ac.uk.

Abstract

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.

KEYWORDS:

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

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