Relationships Between Family Adoption-Related Conversations, Adoptive Identity, and Symptoms of Psychopathology Among Post-Institutionalized Adopted Youth

Introduction: Among the unique challenges adoptees encounter, finding their adoptive identity, their personal conception of their adoption and how that fits into their understanding of themselves, is one notable task. Open adoption-related conversations in the family may help adoptees feel more comfortable about their adoptive status. To our knowledge, no empirical research has considered whether these adoption-related factors are associated with symptoms of psychopathology among post-institutionalized, internationally adopted youth. This study examined relationships between adoption communication openness in the family, adoptive identity, and levels of psychopathology (internalizing and externalizing symptoms) among 36 post-institutionalized adopted youth. Methodology: All participating youth were internationally adopted from institutions at a young age. At the time of participation, youth were between 11 to 21 years of age. Twenty-two were female and 14 were male. These youth originated from 13 different countries. Participation involved an online questionnaire which measured adoption communication openness in the family, adoptive identity, and symptoms of psychopathology. Results: Higher levels of adoption communication openness were associated with lower levels of internalizing symptoms (r = -.57, p < .001). Higher levels of adoptive identity (degree of exploration and commitment to one’s adoptive status) was associated with lower levels of externalizing symptoms (r = -.42, p = .02). Summary: Better mental health appears to be related to more openness in discussions of adoptive status and, perhaps therefore, higher levels of adoption identity.

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