Who Is Adopted? Measuring Adoption Status Using National Survey Data

Brent C. Miller, Bruce K. Bayley, Mathew Christensen, Xitao Fan, Diana Coyl, Harold D Grotevant, Manfred Van Dulmen, Nora Dunbar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


There are several advantages of using large representative samples to study adoption-related issues, and existing databases are increasingly used for this purpose. Large scale surveys are often limited, however, in the number and type of questions that are asked regarding adoption. Conceptual and methodological issues in measuring adoption status are discussed, and a rich new database-the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health)-is used to illustrate these complexities. In Add Health school survey data, adolescents were asked a direct question about whether or not they were adopted and whether they lived with biological parents. During home interviews, adolescents were not asked about adoption status per se, but they could be classified as adopted if they lived with adoptive rather than biological parents. Parents' and adolescents' reports of adoption status and living arrangements are compared in Add Health data to illustrate the complexities of measuring adoption status when using archival data. For research to be scientifically credible and to enhance the accumulation of knowledge, investigators need to be precise about the concepts and measures they use in studying adoption-related issues, particularly when using previously collected survey data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-43
Number of pages21
JournalAdoption Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 17 2002


  • Add health
  • Adoption
  • Archival data
  • Measurement of adoption status


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