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Adoption is a legal act through which a child is placed under the permanent care and guardianship of one or more individuals who are not his or her biological parents. The parental rights and responsibilities of the child’s birth parents are dissolved and transferred to the adoptive parents. Current estimates suggest that about 4 percent of Americans are adopted.
The pre-existing connection between adopter and adoptee may be that of relatives or non-relatives. Relative adopters are more likely to be black, poor, and have low levels of education. Non-relative adopters are more likely to be white and have higher levels of income and education -often adopting due to infertility. Adoptions are governed by state laws which often privilege heterosexual, married couples of child-bearing age.
In the USA, the small number of parents who willingly place their children for adoption are generally white, relatively advantaged, and have high educational aspirations. An increasing number of adoptions are also coming through the foster care system, in which birth parents are typically black or Hispanic and come from very poor backgrounds. International adoptions have also risen in recent years.
Assumptions about the primacy of biological ties between parent and child are prevalent; however, studies indicate that adoptive families are more similar than different from biological families. In fact, adoptive family contexts generally erode any detrimental effects of conditions prior to adoption. Most adoptees and their families do well on critical measures of life success and are personally satisfied with the outcomes of adoption.
- Feigelman, W. (1997) Adopted adults: comparisons with persons raised in conventional families. Adoption Quarterly 2: 79-88.
- Fisher, A. P. (2003) Still ”not quite as good as having your own”.? Toward a sociology of adoption. Annual Review of Sociology 29: 335-61.
- Hamilton, L., Cheng, S., and Powell, B. (2007) Adoptive parents, adaptive parents: evaluating the importance of biological ties for parental investment. American Sociological Review 72: 95-116.