Academic journal article Michigan Family Review

Social Factors Predicting Women's Consideration of Adoption

Academic journal article Michigan Family Review

Social Factors Predicting Women's Consideration of Adoption

Article excerpt

Although there is a great deal of discourse about adoption in the popular press (Margolis, Elkin, Nemtsova, Polier, & Lee, 2008; Katz, 2008), few empirical research studies have examined the specific predictors of adopting. It is important to note that existing research indicates a significant disconnect between people's favorable attitudes toward adoption and actually adopting a child. Studies indicate that about 90% of people have a very or somewhat favorable attitude toward adoption (Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, 1997; Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, 2002). Additionally, over 80% of respondents also expressed agreement that parenting adoptive children can be as satisfying or more satisfying than parenting biological children (Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, 2002), and anywhere from 25 to 40% of people say they have considered adoption themselves (Chandra, Abma, Maza, & Bachrach, 1999). However, this is in contrast to recent data showing that, among American women aged 18-44, only 1.1% had ever adopted a child and only 1.6% were currently seeking to adopt (Jones, 2008). Further, only about 2.5% of children under the age of 18 in the United States are adopted (Kreider, 2003). Consequently, while adoption is viewed as favorable by nearly all Americans, adopting a child continues to be a rather rare occurrence, experienced by relatively few individuals.

A better understanding of the influences on adoption-seeking attitudes and behaviors is especially important considering the large number of children in need of adoptive families and the importance of permanent familial relationships on healthy child development. In the United States, children may be adopted through the foster care system, privately from within the United States or internationally, or through kinship adoptions, making the actual number of children in need of adoption difficult to quantify. Nonetheless, merely taking into account the number of children in foster care who are waiting to be adopted provides ample evidence for the significant continued need for adoptive placements for children. According to recent data, an estimated 408,425 children are in foster care in the United States, and more than 107,000 of them are waiting to be adopted ( U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011).

In light of the apparent disconnect between attitudes and behavior regarding adoption, and in response to the number of children waiting to be adopted in the United States and elsewhere, it is important to understand the factors that affect potential adoptive parents' consideration of adoption as well as those that influence them to move from merely considering adoption to actively pursuing the adoption of a child. A more thorough understanding of these processes is necessary to reduce barriers to adoption, and to increase the availability of adoptive families for children.

In this study, we examine factors that predict consideration of adoption by comparing three groups of women: those who have never considered adoption, those who have considered adoption but have not taken any steps beyond considering it, and those who have considered adoption and have taken steps in the adoption process ranging from talking with an adoption agency to adopting a child. Data are from a representative probability sample of women between the ages of 25 and 50 who reside in the Midwest. Previous research suggests women are more likely to consider adoption than are men (e.g. Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, 2002). Factors examined as predictors of women's considering and taking steps toward adopting include demographic, social, and attitudinal variables. The variables examined include age, race, marital status, income, religiosity, having given birth to a child, having experienced fertility problems, attitudes toward assisted reproductive technologies, the importance placed on parenting, whether the respondent intends to have another child, whether they have formally or informally cared for another person's child, and whether they believe adoptive parenting is as potentially satisfying as biological parenting. …

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