Adoption-Related Gains, Losses and Difficulties: The Adopted Child’s Perspective

  • Joana SoaresEmail author
  • Sara Ralha
  • Maria Barbosa-Ducharne
  • Jesús Palacios


Adoption provides stability, loving care, security, and family interactions for children that have been separated from their birth parents. It also entails many challenges and difficulties, especially for adoptees in middle childhood, since feelings of loss can be particularly strong at this developmental stage. Aiming to use empirical evidence to improve adoption-related policies and practices, this study focused on the adoption-related gains, losses and difficulties, poorly explored in adoption research. One-hundred and two children aged 8–10, who were adopted from care at different ages, were interviewed using the Children’s Interview about Adoption. Data collected on gains, losses and difficulties were analyzed using content analysis. Results showed that adopted children identified four main gains inherent to the experience of being adopted. The most frequent gains were related to being part of a family and experiencing family life. Adoptees identified losses related to their pre-adoption life, particularly birth family loss (parents and siblings), and previous relationships loss (especially school peers). Most adoptees reported facing family and social relationships difficulties in their post-adoption life, such as communicating openly about adoption with the adoptive parents and peers. Findings showed that children’s adaptation to adoption is complex, ambivalent and individually experienced. Adopted children need parents and professionals to help them elaborate and make sense of their life story. Important implications for practice and research with adoptees, adoptive parents, adoption professionals/practitioners and school staff were drawn from data.


Adopted children Middle childhood Adoption-related gains Adoption-related losses Adoption-related difficulties Qualitative analysis 



This research was supported by the Foundation for Science and Technology under Grant [SFRH/BD/77316/2011] and by a philanthropic program of independent patrons. The authors gratefully acknowledge the language help and proof reading of the paper by A. S. L. Special thanks go to the children who participated in the study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for PsychologyUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal
  2. 2.Faculty of Psychology and Education SciencesUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal
  3. 3.Developmental and Educational PsychologyUniversity of SevilleSevilleSpain

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