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School experience for adopted children, young people, and their families

Brown, Andrew ORCID: 2021. School experience for adopted children, young people, and their families. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Education experience and performance for children adopted from care is worthy of comprehensive and robust investigation. An attainment gap exists for children adopted in the UK that persists throughout their educational career. Adoption is a relatively unique experience and adds a layer of complexity, difference, and vulnerability, to young people’s lives that is poorly understood and under-researched. This thesis aims to explore and examine diverse experiences of school for adopted and non-adopted children, highlighted by a persistent educational attainment gap. In addition, this thesis aims to widen the scope of previous work on adopted children to encompass school experiences, behavioural and emotional adjustment and related individual developmental challenges known to affect learning. A systematic review (Chapter 2) yielded 15 studies exploring educational, behavioural and emotional outcomes for adopted children (of which only one was from the UK), indicating a paucity of research in this area. The included studies revealed lower school performance and increased behavioural problems for adopted children compared to non-adopted peers. Next, data from the Wales Adoption Cohort Study (WACS; PI K. Shelton; Chapter 3) was used to explore adoptive family needs in relation to beginning school. Open, reciprocal lines of communication between school and home, coupled with awareness of specific adoption related issues enabled adoptive families to flourish in the initial years after placement. Parental advocacy, in terms of support needs for their adopted children, also arose as an essential component of adoptive family success. Examination of a nationally representative dataset (Understanding Society (USoc); UKDataService, 2020) explored differences on measures of emotional symptoms and behavioural problems, current school experience and career aspiration for adolescents, based on adoptive status (Chapter 4). Adopted young people were found to experience greater challenges in terms of emotional symptoms and behavioural problems. Adopted adolescents were also more likely to show an intention to seek full-time work at the end of compulsory schooling and were less likely to choose to continue education. In the final empirical chapter (Chapter 5), school experience, educational and occupational aspiration were explored from the adolescent perspective. Outcomes were consistent with earlier findings. Adopted adolescents’ feelings about being adopted were linked with self-esteem and school belonging. In addition, most adopted young people reported a less than favourable reaction on the part of others to their adoptive status and fewer close friends. Findings are discussed in the context of existing research and limitations related to accessing vulnerable groups for research (Chapter 6).

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Psychology
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 22 April 2022
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2022 11:06

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