The goal of this project is to investigate the unique strengths and potential challenges of lesbian couples across the transition to adoptive parenthood. Given that parental mental health has implications for child development, and the fact that adoption can be a challenging process, it is important to understand these couples'adjustment to the parental role. There is evidence that lesbian couples possess certain strengths (e.g., a tendency to share domestic labor) but also face challenges (e.g., social stigma). Of interest is whether such factors promote resilience or create vulnerabilities during the transition to parenthood. The transition to biological parenthood is recognized as a time of change and stress (Cowan &Cowan, 1988);the transition to adoptive parenthood is characterized by additional complexities. Couples who wish to adopt face great uncertainty: There is not a definitive waiting period before becoming parents (Levy-Shiff et al., 1991). Furthermore, some adopted children are of a different race or ethnicity than their parents (Brodzinsky &Pinderhughes, 2002). Some adopted children have experienced adverse conditions in early life, making attachment difficult (Levy &Orlans, 2003). Given that a) lesbians are increasingly likely to adopt (Gates &Ost, 2004), and b) evidence suggests that lesbians possess unique strengths and vulnerabilities, it is important to understand how these factors impact couples'transition to parenthood. Such knowledge may be applied to all adoptive couples, with regard to what practices may help or hinder parents'adjustment;indeed, parental well-being during this key life transition has implications for family functioning and child adjustment (NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 1999). The project will interview 45-55 lesbian couples and 45-55 heterosexual couples 1-5 months before the adoption and 3 months post-adoption. Couples will be recruited through adoption agencies and lesbian parenting publications. Quantitative and qualitative methods will be used to analyze the data, which can ultimately be compared to data from a study of the transition to parenthood among lesbian inseminating couples that used a similar research design.

Public Health Relevance

This research has the capacity to strengthen families and communities by articulating the experiences of adoptive couples and highlighting areas of strength and resilience, as well as areas of potential intervention. Identification of the key challenges and supports experienced by adoptive couples will inform the practices of agencies, therapists, and other community systems that work with adoptive couples.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Study Section
Pediatrics Subcommittee (CHHD)
Program Officer
Maholmes, Valerie
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Clark University (Worcester, MA)
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Goldberg, Abbie E; Garcia, Randi L (2016) Gender-typed behavior over time in children with lesbian, gay, and heterosexual parents. J Fam Psychol 30:854-865
Farr, Rachel H; Goldberg, Abbie E (2015) Contact Between Birth and Adoptive Families During the First Year Post-Placement: Perspectives of Lesbian, Gay, and Heterosexual Parents. Adopt Q 18:1-24
Goldberg, Abbie E; Garcia, Randi (2015) Predictors of relationship dissolution in lesbian, gay, and heterosexual adoptive parents. J Fam Psychol 29:394-404
Goldberg, Abbie E; Kinkler, Lori A; Moyer, April M et al. (2014) Intimate Relationship Challenges in Early Parenthood among Lesbian, Gay, and Heterosexual Couples Adopting via the Child Welfare System. Prof Psychol Res Pr 45:221-230
Goldberg, Abbie E; Smith, JuliAnna Z (2014) Preschool selection considerations and experiences of school mistreatment among lesbian, gay, and heterosexual adoptive parents. Early Child Res Q 29:64-75
Goldberg, Abbie E; Smith, Julianna Z (2014) Predictors of parenting stress in lesbian, gay, and heterosexual adoptive parents during early parenthood. J Fam Psychol 28:125-37
Goldberg, Abbie E (2014) Lesbian, Gay, and Heterosexual Adoptive Parents' Experiences in Preschool Environments. Early Child Res Q 29:669-681
Goldberg, Abbie E; Smith, JuliAnna Z (2014) Predictors of school engagement among same-sex and heterosexual adoptive parents of Kindergarteners. J Sch Psychol 52:463-78
Goldberg, Abbie E; Smith, JuliAnna Z (2014) Perceptions of Stigma and Self-Reported School Engagement In Same-Sex Couples with Young Children. Psychol Sex Orientat Gend Divers 1:202-212
Goldberg, Abbie E; Smith, JuliAnna Z (2013) Predictors of psychological adjustment in early placed adopted children with lesbian, gay, and heterosexual parents. J Fam Psychol 27:431-42

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