Adoption USA. A Chartbook Based on the 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents. Interpreting Differences Among Percentages


When comparing adopted children with all U.S. children, readers should be aware of some key differences between the two populations.

  • Adopted children tend to be older than children in the general population. Among adopted children, 6 percent are under age 3, compared with 16 percent of children in the general population, according to data from the NSAP and NSCH. Among other reasons, this age difference is partly due to the fact that children are often adopted later than infancy. Additionally, the estimates presented here represent children with  finalized adoptions, and finalizations typically take a minimum of six months.
  • Many child and family well-being indicators differ according to children’s ages. Therefore, when comparing wellbeing between adopted children and the general population of children, some differences may be attributable to the older ages, on average, of adopted children. For example, older children will have had more time in which a health problem may have been diagnosed than will younger children. As a way of accounting for the fact that on average adopted children are older, the Chartbook presents some indicators by age group.ii

Adopted children and children in the general population also differ in ways other than age, some of which are explored in Part 1 of this Chartbook. Part 1 also explores some of the ways in which the characteristics of adopted children differ by adoption type.

This Chartbook provides a snapshot at a single point in time of the characteristics, experiences, and well-being of adopted children and their families. All comparisons between groups that are highlighted in the text are statistically significant at the .05 level of significance; notable differences or associations that are statistically significant at the .10 level were also in some cases mentioned and footnoted as “marginally significant” at the .10 level. A difference that is statistically significant is one that exists not just among the survey respondents, but that can be inferred to exist in the population they represent; the values of .05 and .10 are commonly used as thresholds for making such assumptions. Although group differences are present by adoptive status or by adoption type, assumptions about the reasons for any such differences should not be made based on the data presented in the Chartbook. Further analyses of the data will help shed light on how different factors are independently associated with indicators of interest. However, inferences concerning cause and effect are not appropriate, even where analyses account for multiple, interrelated variables.

In addition to testing the statistical significance of differences between groups of children according to adoption type, we also examined the relative standard error of each estimate. The relative standard error (calculated as the ratio of the standard error to the percentage estimate itself) is one method for determining the reliability of estimates. We generally avoided reporting estimates for which the relative standard error exceeded 0.3, and— at a minimum flagged such estimates in the appendix tables to denote their imprecision. Additionally, value labels for percentages with standard errors exceeding 0.3 are omitted from the figures in this Chartbook.

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