Adoption USA. A Chartbook Based on the 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents. Parenting and parentwell-being

11/01/2009

This section examines five indicators related to parenting: 1) whether the parent-child relationship was rated as very warm and close; 2) the parent-child relationship compared to parental expectations; 3) the experience of having the child in his/her life as compared to parental expectations; 4) ability to cope with the demands of parenting; and 5) parental aggravation. Additionally, this section reports on the quality of the relationship between children’s parents. The parents’ relationship with each other can influence child well-being. For example, relationship factors such as positive affect and enjoyment have been linked with fewer child behavior problems.29 For definitions of each measure, see the text box labeled “Measures of parenting and parent well-being.” See Appendix Table 11 on page 70 for detailed data on each indicator.

The majority of adopted children fare well according to parenting measures, with a substantial portion having parents who rated the parent-child relationship and having the child in their lives as “better than they ever expected.” Overall, 81 percent of adopted children have parents who described their relationship with their child as very warm/close, and 42 percent have parents who reported that the relationship is “better than ever expected.” Fifty-one percent of adopted children have parents who reported that having the child in their lives is better than they ever expected. Just over half (53 percent) also have parents who feel that they cope “very well” with the demands of parenting. Eleven percent have parents who experience parental aggravation; see Figure 26.

Furthermore, for the vast majority of adopted children living with two parents, their parents’ relationship quality is high. Parental reports regarding the happiness of their relationships with their spouses or partners indicate that, among adopted children living with two parents, nearly nine out of ten have parents who reported that their relationship was “very happy” or “completely happy;” see Figure 27.

Adopted children are somewhat less likely than children in the general population to fare well on the parenting measures, but they are more likely to have parents who have satisfying relationships. Adopted children are somewhat less likely than those in the general population to have parents who reported that they cope “very well” with the demands of parenting (53 compared with 60 percent).i And, while parental aggravation is rare among all children, regardless of adoptive status, adopted children are more likely than children in the general U.S. population to have an aggravated parent (11 compared with 6 percent). However, adopted children live with parents who are at least as happy with each other as parents of children in the general population. Indeed, adopted children are somewhat less likely than children in the general population to have parents who said their relationship was either “fairly happy” or “not too happy” (12 and 17 percent, respectively).

Children adopted from foster care fare less well than internationally adopted children on some parenting measures; on other measures there were no differences among adoption types. Specifically, the percentage of children adopted from foster care with parents who reported the parent-child relationship being “better than ever expected” is lowest for children adopted from foster care (36 percent) and highest for internationally adopted children (46 percent). Similarly, 40 percent of children adopted from foster care have parents who reported that having the child in their lives is “better than they ever expected,” compared with 54 percent of privately adopted U.S. children and 62 percent of internationally adopted children. Furthermore, children adopted from foster care are more likely to have aggravated parents than privately adopted U.S. children or internationally adopted children (16 percent, compared with 7 and 9 percent, respectively); see Figure 28. However, parents’ reports regarding how well they cope with the demands of parenting do not differ by adoption type, nor does the quality of parents’ relationships.

Figure 26. Percentage of adopted children according to parenting and parent-child measures

Figure 26. Percentage of adopted children according to parenting and parent-child measures

Figure 27. Percentage distribution of all children and all adopted children, by reported satisfaction of parent with spouse/partner relationship quality

Figure 27. Percentage distribution of all children and all adopted children, by reported satisfaction of parent with spouse/partner relationship quality

Figure 28. Percentage of adopted children according to parenting and parent-child measures, by adoption type

Figure 28. Percentage of adopted children according to parenting and parent-child measures, by adoption type

 

MEASURES OF PARENTING AND PARENT WELL-BEING

Spouse/partner relationship quality: To assess the relationship quality of parents who have a spouse or partner, we identified parents who described their relationship as “completely happy” or “very happy,” as opposed to “fairly happy” or “not too happy.”

Parent-child relationship very warm/close: Based on parents’ responses to the question, “How would you describe your relationship to [your child]?” we examined children whose parents responded “very warm and close,” compared with those who responded “somewhat warm and close,” “somewhat distant,” or “very distant.”

Parent-child relationship, compared to parental expectations: This indicator is based on the question, “Thinking about [your child]’s relationship with you, would you say things are better than you ever expected, about what you expected, or more difficult than you ever expected?”

Having the child in their life, compared to parents’ expectations: Parents answered the question, “So far, how has having [the child] in your life compared with what you thought it would be like?” Responses included “better than you expected,” “about what you expected,” and “more difficult than you expected.”

Ability to cope with the demands of parenting: Parents also answered the question, “How well do you feel you are coping with the day to day demands of parenthood?” We identified parents who responded “very well,” versus those who responded “somewhat well,” “not very well,” and “not very well at all.”

Parent aggravation: Parental aggravation was assessed based on parents’ ratings of how frequently during the prior month they felt the child “[was] much harder to care for than most children his/her age” and “[did] things that really bothered [the parent] a lot,” and how often they “felt angry with him/her.” A scale score was calculated such that typical parental responses of “sometimes,” “usually,” or “always,” rather than “never” or “rarely,” indicated parental aggravation.

Note: Appendix Table 11 includes two additional measures: 1) the relationship of the parent’s spouse/partner to the child is very warm and close, and 2) the relationship of the parent’s spouse/partner to the child, compared to parental expectations.

 

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