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Early adversity predicts adoptees’ enduring emotional and behavioral problems in childhood

Paine, Amy L. ORCID:, Fahey, Kevin ORCID:, Anthony, Rebecca E. ORCID: and Shelton, Katherine H. ORCID: 2021. Early adversity predicts adoptees’ enduring emotional and behavioral problems in childhood. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 30 , pp. 721-732. 10.1007/s00787-020-01553-0

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Children adopted from the public care system are likely to experience a cluster of inter-related risk factors that place them on a trajectory of mental health problems that persist across the life course. However, the specific effects of putative risk factors on children’s mental health post-placement are not well understood. We conducted a prospective, longitudinal study of children placed for adoption between 2014 and 2015 (N = 96). Adoptive parents completed questionnaires at approximately 5-, 21-, 36-, and 48 months post-placement. We used time series analysis to examine the impact of pre-adoptive risk factors (adverse childhood experiences [ACEs], number of moves, days with birth parents and in care) on children’s internalizing and externalizing problems, and prosocial behaviour over four years post-placement. Adoptees’ internalizing and externalizing problems remained consistently high over the four-year study period but more ACEs predicted increases in internalizing and externalizing problems. Contrary to expectations, more pre-placement moves and time in care predicted fewer problems over time, but exploratory analyses of interactive effects revealed this was only the case in rare circumstances. We identify pre- and post-removal factors that may incur benefits or have a deleterious impact on adoptees’ outcomes in post-adoptive family life. Our findings provide knowledge for front-line professionals in the support of adoptive families and underscore the vital need for effective early intervention.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Cardiff Law & Politics
Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Publisher: Springer Verlag
ISSN: 1018-8827
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 4 May 2020
Date of Acceptance: 1 May 2020
Last Modified: 06 May 2023 06:49

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