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Charting the trajectories of adopted children’s emotional and behavioral problems: The impact of early adversity and post-adoptive parental warmth

Paine, Amy L. ORCID:, Perra, Oliver, Anthony, Rebecca ORCID: and Shelton, Katherine H. ORCID: 2021. Charting the trajectories of adopted children’s emotional and behavioral problems: The impact of early adversity and post-adoptive parental warmth. Development and Psychopathology 33 (3) , pp. 922-936. 10.1017/S0954579420000231

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Children who are adopted from care are more likely to experience enduring emotional and behavioral problems across development; however, adoptees’ trajectories of mental health problems and factors that impact their trajectories are poorly understood. Therefore, we used multilevel growth analyses to chart adoptees’ internalizing and externalizing problems across childhood, and examined the associations between preadoptive risk and postadoptive protective factors on their trajectories. This was investigated in a prospective longitudinal study of case file records (N = 374) and questionnaire-based follow-ups (N = 96) at approximately 5, 21, and 36 months postadoptive placement. Preadoptive adversity (indexed by age at placement, days in care, and number of adverse childhood experiences) was associated with higher internalizing and externalizing scores; the decrease in internalizing scores over childhood was accelerated for those exposed to lower levels of preadoptive risk. Warm adoptive parenting was associated with a marked reduction in children's internalizing and externalizing problems over time. Although potentially limited by shared methods variance and lack of variability in parental warmth scores, these findings demonstrate the deleterious impact of preadoptive risk and the positive role of exceptionally warm adoptive parenting on children's trajectories of mental health problems and have relevance for prevention and intervention strategies.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer)
Additional Information: This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISSN: 0954-5794
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 28 January 2020
Date of Acceptance: 24 January 2020
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 11:21

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