The role of siblings in adoption outcomes and experiences from adolescence to emerging adulthood

Rachel H. Farr, Margaux E. Flood, Harold D. Grotevant

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4 Scopus citations


In many families, siblings play important roles in shaping each other's outcomes and experiences across development. In adoptive families, siblings may affect adoptees' feelings about adoption and birth family contact. Among "target adoptees" (i.e., 1 participating adopted individual within adoptive families) with siblings who may have also been adopted or the biological children of the adoptive parents, we examined how adoption experiences and individual adjustment from adolescence into emerging adulthood were associated with sibling relationship dynamics. We present 3 studies using longitudinal, mixed method data within the same overarching sample of adoptive families. Study 1 was a follow-up to Berge et al.'s (2006) study of adolescent adoptees and their adopted siblings with birth family contact; we found evidence of changes in the status of contact collectively experienced by 26 adopted sibling pairs when target adoptees were emerging adults. In Study 2, we found that target adoptees (n = 91) with siblings (adopted or not) who were more involved with target adoptees' birth family contact demonstrated more favorable behavioral outcomes than target adoptees who had uninvolved siblings. Finally in Study 3, for target adoptees with siblings who were also adopted (n = 51), results showed that target adoptees felt more positively about their own adoption when siblings expressed similar positive feelings about individual adoption experiences. Implications of our findings are discussed in terms of the enduring contributions of sibling relationships from childhood into adulthood and the unique ways in which adoptive siblings are important in shaping one another's experiences of adoption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)386-396
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding was provided by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant R01-HD-049859, National Science Foundation Grant BCS-0443590, and William T. Grant Foundation Grant 7146. During the preparation of this article, the authors were supported by funds from the Rudd Family Foundation Chair in Psychology at the University of Massachusetts AmHorst. The authors gratefully acknowledge the adoptive family members who generously shared their experiences as part of the Minnesota-Texas Adoption Research Project.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Psychological Association.


  • Adolescence
  • Adoption
  • Birth family contact
  • Emerging adulthood
  • Siblings


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