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Keywords:

  • adoption;
  • family;
  • marital quality;
  • parenting;
  • stepparenting;
  • well-being.

This study compares the experience of gaining a child through birth, adoption, or marriage, extending the focus of investigation beyond biological parenthood and the transition made by first-time parents. Using a subsample from the National Survey of Families and Households (N = 204), we compared reasons for having children, parental well-being, family relationships, and work roles among parents who gained a child biologically, through adoption, or by becoming a stepparent. Overall, there were many similarities in the impact of gaining a child across the three parental groups. Repeated measures analyses of covariance showed that across family groups, after gaining a child, respondents reported less depressed affect, more disagreements with their spouse, and more support from their own parents. The differences across groups suggest that the experience of becoming an adoptive parent or a stepparent may be less stressful than the adjustment to biological parenthood.