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Title: 21st century adoptive families : a longitudinal study of children raised in gay father, lesbian mother and heterosexual parent families
Author: McConnachie, Anja
ISNI:       0000 0004 9354 0873
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2020
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Findings are presented of a UK longitudinal study of adoptive families. At Phase 1, 41 gay father families, 40 lesbian mother families and 49 heterosexual parent families were visited when the children were aged between 3 and 9 years. At Phase 2, the response rate was 85%, with 33 gay father families, 35 lesbian mother families and 43 heterosexual parent families participating when the children were aged between 10 and 14 years. Standardized interview, observational, and questionnaire measures of parental mental health, parent-child relationships, and child psychological functioning were administered to parents, children, and teachers. Few differences were observed in parent mental health, the quality of parent-child relationships or in child psychological functioning. Where differences were identified, these reflected more positive functioning in gay father families compared to heterosexual parent families. In all family types, child adjustment problems significantly increased from Phase 1 (when the mean age of the children was 6 years) to Phase 2 (when the mean age of the children was 12 years). Moreover, a high proportion of children displayed adjustment problems at Phase 2: 31.6% scored above the cut-off for psychiatric disorder on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, a standardised questionnaire of children’s externalising and internalising problems, and 74.5% were rated by a psychiatrist as having some level of psychiatric concern. Though it is important to note that children generally displayed mixed attachment patterns (i.e. a combination of secure and insecure strategies), the dominant strategy for the majority of the sample (40.2%) was insecure-dismissing. Despite the high levels of adjustment problems and attachment insecurity, the children reported high levels of happiness and connectedness. Family processes, including parent mental health and parenting quality, and perceived heterosexism were associated with child psychological functioning. There was no evidence that children in gender matched families (i.e. boys in gay father families and girls in lesbian mother families) had better psychological functioning than children in gender mismatched families (i.e. girls in gay father families and boys in lesbian mother families). The findings contribute to adoption policy and practice, and to theoretical understanding of the role of parental gender in child development.
Supervisor: Golombok, Susan Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Adoption ; Adjustment ; Same-sex parenting ; Parent-child relationships ; Attachment