Adoption: Biological and social processes linked to adaptation

Harold D. Grotevant, Jennifer M. McDermott

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Children join adoptive families through domestic adoption from the public child welfare system, infant adoption through private agencies, and international adoption. Each pathway presents distinctive developmental opportunities and challenges. Adopted children are at higher risk than the general population for problems with adaptation, especially externalizing, internalizing, and attention problems. This review moves beyond the field's emphasis on adoptee-nonadoptee differences to highlight biological and social processes that affect adaptation of adoptees across time. The experience of stress, whether prenatal, postnatal/preadoption, or during the adoption transition, can have significant impacts on the developing neuroendocrine system. These effects can contribute to problems with physical growth, brain development, and sleep, activating cascading effects on social, emotional, and cognitive development. Family processes involving contact between adoptive and birth family members, co-parenting in gay and lesbian adoptive families, and racial socialization in transracially adoptive families affect social development of adopted children into adulthood. ©

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-265
Number of pages31
JournalAnnual review of psychology
StatePublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Children
  • Context
  • Development
  • Families
  • Neuroendocrine system
  • Risk


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