Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Adoption, Foreign-Born Status, and Children's Progress in School

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Adoption, Foreign-Born Status, and Children's Progress in School

Article excerpt

At no time in U.S. history have we witnessed the types of transformations now occurring in adoptive families. The unprecedented growth in the size of the adoptee population is indisputable (Selman, 2009; Stolley, 1993). In the second half of the 20th century, the number of adoptees increased from about 50,000 in the mid-1940s to more than 110,000 in 1990 (Stolley, 1993). Along with other transformations in children's living arrangements, these changes have attracted significant attention in the literature. New studies on the health, social, and psychological outcomes of adopted children have provided a useful portrait of how well they adapt to life in their new families (L. Hamilton, Cheng, & Powell, 2007; Hellerstedt et al., 2008). However, despite this increasing body of work, lingering questions remain concerning whether adopted children have similar levels of socioeconomic attainment as their peers who live with biological parents (Rueter & Koerner, 2008; Van Londen, Juffer, & van IJzendoorn, 2007).

In this study I used data from the American Community Survey (ACS; https://www.census. gov/programs-surveys/acs/) to provide a nuanced perspective on the relationship between adoption and child well-being. I focused on disparities in schooling progress, conditional on adoption status, and paid attention to three specific issues. First, I investigated whether the relationship between adoption status and schooling progress differs among foreign-born and U.S.-born children. Second, I examined whether foreign-born adoptees are more likely to lag behind in school compared to U.S.-born adoptees. Third and finally, I examined whether adoption status results in differentiated patterns of educational incorporation among immigrant children. In the process, I examined whether these variations are associated with differences in racial and ethnic characteristics.

Background

Research on adoption status, which often takes one of two perspectives, generally yields contrasting findings on its implications for the well-being of children. The first perspective indicates that adopted children experience significant social and developmental disadvantages compared to their non-adopted peers. These disadvantages are typically explained using insights from kinship selection theory and its prediction of a positive relationship between parental investment in children and degrees of biological relatedness (Gibson, 2009; W. D. Hamilton, 1964). According to this perspective, disparities in child well-being are interpreted as resulting from the fact that parents invest less in the well-being of nonbiological children, such as adoptees and foster children, than they do in their biological kin (Gibson, 2009; W. D. Hamilton, 1964). Support for this hypothesis has been found across several disciplines. In the health literature, for example, adoptees have been found to have worse health outcomes compared to non-adoptees (Miller, Fan, Christensen, Grotevant, & Van Dulmen, 2000). A similar pattern of adoptee disadvantage underlies many of the findings reported in the educational literature. Accordingly, adopted children have been found to have lower levels of achievement, more problems in school, and less positive feelings about school compared to other children (Miller, Fan, Grotevant, et al., 2000; Plug&Vijverberg,2003;Raleigh&Kao,2013).

A second perspective on the implications of adoption status suggests that adoptees do not experience systematic socioeconomic disadvantages compared to other children (e.g., Borders, Black, & Pasley, 1998; Van Londen et al., 2007). Proponents of this perspective argue that parents deliberately act to mitigate biases in their investment in children by adopting a range of compensatory behaviors that can help to eliminate disparities among children (L. Hamilton et al., 2007). Indeed, several studies have provided evidence showing that adoption status does not necessarily result in negative implications for children. …

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