Only Child Adoptive Families

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only child adoptive families

There are indications that as many as 50% or more of all adoptive parent couples (or singles) adopt one child only. Many parents adopt only one child because the agency they dealt with will only place with childless couples. (Many agencies are moving away from this stance and will place two children in a home.) Other parents want one child only and are satisfied after the adoption. Other parents cannot afford to adopt more than one child.

When only one child is adopted and there are no biological children, the adopted child's situation is similar to the situation of an only biological child, and there may be a risk of overindulging the child or expecting too much of the child.

Researchers disagree on the negative effects of being an only child; for example, a 1984 study of only children by Norval D. Glenn and Sue Keir Hoppe at the University of Texas found adults who were only children enjoyed lives as satisfying or even more satisfying than adults who grew up with siblings.

They did find a sex difference: adult males who grew up as "onlies" were more likely to report being "very happy" than men who grew up with siblings while adult women who had been only children reported they were "very happy" at about the same levels as adult women who grew up with brothers and sisters.

Said the researchers, "If reluctance to have an only child is based primarily on fear that he or she will be unusually likely to become a maladjusted and unhappy adult, we believe that the best available evidence indicates that the reluctance is ill-founded."

This advice could also be extended to adoptive parents who prefer to adopt one child.

Adoptive parents would probably also be interested in the results of a study of BIRTH ORDER and academic achievement, although adopted children were not studied. Researcher Varghese I. Cherian studied over 1,000 children and found a direct relationship between birth order and academic achievement, with the oldest child or the only child usually achieving the best grades. (See ACADEMIC PROGRESS.)


Varghese I. Cherian, "Birth Order and Academic Achievement of Children in Transkei," Psychological Reports 66 (1990): 19-24.

Norval D. Glenn and Sue Keir Hoppe, "Only Children as Adults," Journal of Family Issues, September 1984.

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