How do the relationships that adopted youth have with their adoptive families change as they transition to adulthood? How are differences in adoptive identity during adolescence linked to young adult outcomes? This follow-up of the Minnesota Texas Adoption Research Project continued to track a nationwide sample of 190 adopted young adults who are now between the ages of 18 and 28 (referred to as “emerging adults”). The investigator examined the connection between how adopted youth related to their adoptive families growing up and the relationships the youth form as they begin leaving home and forming new families. In-depth interviews were conducted with the youth, their adoptive parents, and the person identified as having the closest relationship with the adoptee. Findings indicate that strong attachment to adoptive parents was related to a less avoidant attachment style in the social relationships of emerging adults. Young adults who continued to have strong attachments to their adoptive parents and positive attitudes about their adoption also felt less unstable and uncertain in general about their lives as young adults. Positive adoptive identities in emerging adults stem from adoptive parents who encouraged open conversations about adoption, as well as emotional expression and contact with birth relatives. The adopted young adults generally feel more supported by romantic partners and spouses (who were almost all opposite sex) than they do by close friends (who were mostly same sex). Regardless of whether the adoptees had contact with birth relatives, the majority of them showed increased interest in information about their birth relatives as they transitioned from adolescence into emerging adulthood. They especially wanted more information about their birth relatives’ medical histories. Adoptive mothers’ openness in communication during adolescence predicted increased information-seeking during emerging adulthood. Whether the adoptee had contact with birth relatives was not associated with psychological adjustment (externalizing); however, adoptive family satisfaction with their contact arrangements did predict externalizing. Adoptive families most satisfied with their contact arrangements reported relative declines in adoptee externalizing behavior during adolescence, and this trend continued into emerging adulthood.
How do the relationships that adopted youth have with their adoptive families change as they transition to adulthood? How are differences in adoptive identity during adolescence linked to young adult outcomes?