Exploring adolescent attachment to adoptive parents: Parents’ sexual orientation not a factor

Date Published

Erich, S., Kanenburg, H., Case, K., Allen, T. & Bogdanos, T. (2009). An Empirical Analysis of Factors Affecting Adolescent Attachment in Adoptive Families with Homosexual and Straight Parents. Child and Youth Services Review, 31(3), 398-404.

Reviewed by
Catherine Baquero

In the USA, the states have the legal authority to create a parent-child relationship through adoption. Some States have attempted to ban gay and lesbian individuals from adopting and restricting eligibility of foster parents. This study examined the factors related to the level of attachment of adoptive children to their parents and peers. Specifically, data was collected from a volunteer sample of 154 adoptive parents (127 were heterosexual parents and 27 were gay/lesbian parents) and 210 adolescent respondents (ages 11-19). On-line or paper questionnaires were administered to the sample which was recruited from the Child Welfare Information Gateway’s directory of registered parent support groups as well as through a news release placed in newspapers. Questionnaires were divided into three sections: parents answered questions about their relationship (using a modified version of KMS 3-item instrument measuring marital satisfaction), parents answered questions about each of their adopted adolescents and adolescents answered questions about themselves (using the IPPA Mother, Father and Peer Version, designed to examine dimensions of adolescents’ relationships with parents and friends).

The results demonstrated that no significant differences were found between families based on sexual orientation for variables including adolescent attachment to parents and peers, parent satisfaction with the relationship to their adopted children, and adolescent life satisfaction. Adolescent life satisfaction was positively related to attachment with parents but unrelated to the parents’ sexual orientation. These findings challenge the misperception that children of homosexual parents would have worse psychosocial outcomes than children of heterosexual parents.

Methodological notes

While the findings of the study are encouraging, the convenience sample and the low response rate of adolescents from gay/lesbian families (60% or n=16) limit the study’s generalizability. Quality of attachment was not independently verified but based on perceptions of attachment, couple satisfaction and satisfaction about parent/child relationship; thus, the responses may be subject to the effects of social desirability.