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While rigorously designed and mounted studies of adoption are rare, interest in studying members of the adoption triad (adoptive parents, birthparents and adopted persons) and adoption itself appears to be increasing. This is a good sign because the more valid research conducted on adoption, the more reliable information adoption professionals have upon which to make sound policy decisions. In addition, such information would be very helpful to triad members.

The difficulty in studying individuals who were adopted, adoptive parents or birthparents lies primarily in that CONFIDENTIALITY protects their identities. As a result, individuals who come forward in response to requests from adoption agencies or advertisements may well be significantly different from individuals who prefer to retain their privacy and anonymity.

Another difficulty lies in finding a way to interview young adopted persons without risking affecting their views and psychological well-being; any research involving human subjects is sensitive.

The interpretation of data may also be difficult; for example, some researchers have generalized from small groups of people to large groups of adopted individuals. Some researchers have studied institutionalized adopted persons or persons receiving therapy and generalized their results from this population to all or most adopted individuals. Others argue that adopted adults (or children) should be compared to nonadopted adults or children in the general population.

Adoption research is expensive, which is why so many studies use small samples. Presuming that hundreds of adopted individuals, birthparents or adoptive parents could be identified, it would be expensive and time-consuming to interview and test them all. Funding must be available in order to cover this cost.

Another problem with research is that researchers cannot always determine causal factors; for example, if children are emotionally disturbed, are they disturbed because of an adoption issue or because of a problem that occurred before they were adopted? Some researchers fail to determine the age at which the child was adopted, which is an important factor.

Terminologies often vary, and it is important for researchers to share a common frame of reference; for example, many researchers have differing definitions of OPEN ADOPTION, varying from those who believe providing the birthmother nonidentifying information about prospective parents is open to those who believe only a total disclosure of identities is open.

Timeliness is a problem as well. Because a large study may take extensive time, the information garnered may not be available for years. Some researchers undertake longitudinal studies, which study the same population at different points in time; for example, children at age 3, 7, 11 and 15. Researchers try to determine what factors have changed in the child's life, if the child is still adjusted (or maladjusted) and so on. Longitudinal studies have been performed to determine changes in adjustment, intelligence and numerous other areas. (See also ADOPTION STUDIES STATISTICS.)

Find more information on research

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