Relational uncertainty: Does parental perception of adopted children's academic success change over time?

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Early Childhood Research Quarterly
While initial findings suggested that children who are adopted (adoptees) perform less well academically, this result is not consistent across the literature. To explain these, often conflicting, results, researchers acquired a lagging view, in which adoptees need to “catch up” to their non-adopted peers. According to the lagging view, those adopted at a younger age have less catching up to do than those adopted when they are older. However, the lagging view does not account for the period in which adoptees and their new families adjust to one another. A period that we refer to as relational uncertainty. This is particularly relevant as data on adoptees’ academic performance is largely based on parent reports. The overarching goal of this study was to determine if parental perception of adoptees’ academic achievement changed over time, after accounting for the impact of age of adoption. Using a nationally representative dataset, we found that after accounting for age of adoption the length of time that children resided in their adoptive homes predicted parental perception of academic performance. Specifically, after accounting for age of adoption, parental perception of adoptees’ academic performance demonstrated early consistency followed by a significant decline. We also investigated if the relation, of those factors previously associated with parental perception of adoptees’ academic performance, remained after variance was accounted for by both age of adoption and children's length of stay in their adoptive homes. Several previous factors (where the child lived pre-adoption and the socioeconomic status of their adoptive household) and child characteristics (sex and the first language the child learned to speak) demonstrated a continued association. Results indicate the need for a paradigm shift in how we view parent reports of adoptees’ academic achievement, as well as the frequently reported factors surrounding adoptees’ academic performance. The implications for how to support adoptees’ academic achievement are discussed.
This article was originally published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly. The version of record is available at:
adoption, relational uncertainty, academic achievement, parental perception, National Child Development Study
Turski, Tamara, and Stephanie N. Del Tufo. “Relational Uncertainty: Does Parental Perception of Adopted Children’s Academic Success Change over Time?” Early Childhood Research Quarterly 61 (2022): 36–46.