Adoption and attachment: a study of attachment in young adult adoptees

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Extrapolating from the central tenets of attachment theory and research, the present study investigated the implications for the adoption experience on the developing security and pattern of attachment relationships. Differences between adoptee and non-adoptee attachment classifications were explored, and classification differences were analyzed based on their relationship with demographic and theoretically relevant variables. A sample of 34 late adolescent to young-adult adoptee volunteers (20 females, 14 males), ranging from 17 to 32 years of age, were recruited. They were administered the Adult Attachment Interview, the Adult Attachment Projective, and asked questions relating to their adoptions. The sample's distribution of Adult Attachment Projective classifications was compared to norms of community and clinical samples. Consistent with the implications from attachment theory and research, the adoptee distribution differed significantly from that expected for a non-adopted, non-clinical sample (p:S.0001). Furthermore, several features of the distribution pattern were also consistent with projections from attachment theory and research. First, the rate of secure or Autonomous attachment is significantly lower than expected (E) (15%, E = 52%). Second, Dismissing attachment, the most common form of insecurity in normative samples, is nearly absent in this sample (6%, E = 18%). Third, both the Preoccupied (47%, E = 11 %) and the atypical Unresolved/Disorganized (32%, E = 19%) attachment classifications are overrepresented in this sample relative to the comparison norms. These adoptees resembled a clinical sample in their distribution of attachment patterns. Between classification group differences were analyzed by examining their relationship with the following variables: age, gender, age at adoption, professional status, relationship status, parenting status, search for birth family/outcome, counseling experience, and subsequent threats to attachm~nt (loss, trauma, abuse, rejection, and separation). None of these analyses supported an association between any of the independent variables and classification group differences. The findings from this study support the theory that adoptees are at greater risk for insecure attachments than their non-adopted counterparts. It is recommended that future studies make further attempts to identify the source/s of these differences.
Bibliography: p. 87-97
Paperny, R. D. (2003). Adoption and attachment: a study of attachment in young adult adoptees (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from doi:10.11575/PRISM/21315