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Adoption with contact: a study of adoptive parents and the impact of continuing contact with families of origin

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Adoption practice in the 1990s has seen a substantial increase in adoptive families where there continues to be contact with families of origin. This study by Margaret Sykes, based on postal questionnaire responses from 30 adoptive parents in 17 families, followed up by interviews with 15 adopters in nine families, considers adoptive families at least two years after placement, and aims to enhance our understanding of the meaning of these contact experiences for adoptive parents. The analysis of the narratives from the interviews has considered 1) the impact on parenthood, exploring themes of control, entitlement to parent, communication, bonding and ownership, and 2) the relationships between adoptive and birth parents, examining themes of fear, anger and blame, competition and empathy. The findings suggest that the passage of time and a greater sense of control assist in establishing confidence, while adopters develop a more empathic view towards birth mothers. This has emotional costs to the adoptive mother. The study suggests that contact is more likely to be sustained where adoptive parents are able to develop a coherence in their understanding of their own past experiences. The implications for practice are discussed


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2000

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