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April 2007Vol. 8, No. 3Adoptive Parents Invest More in Their Children

A recent study analyzing levels of parental investment in families with two biological parents and other family types found that families with two adoptive parents invested more in their children than did other family types, including families with two biological parents. When factors such as adoptive parents' higher income, older maternal age, and greater education were controlled for, the advantage diminished some but remained statistically significant.

Data were drawn from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study of approximately 13,000 first graders and their families. Parental investment was measured across four resource categories:

  • Economic resources, including the number of books a child has and whether the child has access to a computer
  • Cultural resources
  • Interactional resources, including parental assistance with schoolwork and conversations with children
  • Social capital resources, including whether a child's parent seeks support from other parents and religious involvement

Results are discussed in terms of various sociological theories, including family structure theory and kin selection theory.

"Adoptive Parents, Adaptive Parents: Evaluating the Importance of Biological Ties for Parental Investment," by Laura Hamilton, Brian Powell, and Simon Cheng, was published in the American Sociological Review, Volume 72, and is available for free download: (1,802  - KB)