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November 2021Vol. 22, No. 10An Exploratory Study of the Impact of Adoption on Adoptive Siblings

Although there is a large body of research on the impact of early childhood trauma on children who were adopted as well as on the impact adoption has on adoptive parents and children, there is not much research regarding the impact adoption has on biological children in families who adopt. The Journal of Child and Family Studies published a qualitative, retrospective article, "An Exploratory Study on the Impact of Adoption on Adoptive Siblings," that explores the impact adoption has on the well-being of these children.

The study surveyed 182 adult biological siblings (aged 18 to 64 years) in adoptive families about their experiences in their families both before and after adoption. Researchers asked participants 10 open-response questions and categorized the results by preadoption, initial transition, and postadoption with the following themes emerging from each:

  • Preadoption
    • Reaction to the news that their family was planning to adopt 
    • Perceived involvement in the preadoption process
  • Initial transition 
    • Adjustment during the first year of adoption
    • Perceived quality of their relationship with their parents during the initial transition
  • Postadoption 
    • Experiences after the initial transition
    • Influence on their personal life and emerging patterns of how adoption impacted their life decisions
    • Perceived influence on family relationships
    • What they would change and wished their families had done differently in their families' adoptions to improve the experience and have a healthier functioning family

The results indicated there was a range of both positive and negative experiences, and many reported parentification, feelings of invisibility and/or resentment, and trying to reduce the burden on their parents through peacekeeping and people pleasing. The results from the questionnaire also found two opposite lasting effects of adoption: the positive effect of personal growth (such as increased empathy, compassion, and maturity) and negative effects (such as mental health issues, broken relationships, trust issues, and a jaded worldview). Adoption of siblings also had a large effect on whether the biological sibling chose to enter a child welfare- or social welfare-related field or foster or adopt themselves.

For additional details about the study, including clinical implications, suggestions for service improvement, and a more detailed look at the results, read "An Exploratory Study on the Impact of Adoption on Adoptive Siblings."