The Characteristics and Well-Being of Adopted Stepchildren

Authors


The Department of Sociology, Iowa State University, 102 East Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1070 (stewarts@iastate.edu).

Abstract

This study draws upon 22,680 children from the 2002 National Survey of America's Families to investigate the demographic and family characteristics and well-being of stepchildren who have been adopted by a stepparent (n = 140) relative to children with 2 biological parents, children with 2 adoptive parents, and children with 1 biological parent and 1 nonadoptive stepparent. Five percent of all stepchildren and one quarter of all adopted children have been adopted by a stepparent. How the characteristics of adopted stepchildren compare to those of other children depends on the child's age—whereas younger adopted stepchildren are most similar to children with 2 biological parents, older adopted stepchildren are most similar to nonadopted stepchildren. Adopted stepchildren of all ages have significantly more behavior and emotional problems than children with 2 biological parents, but have similar levels of school engagement. There were no significant differences between children with 2 adoptive parents, nonadopted stepchildren, and adopted stepchildren on any measure of well-being regardless of the child's age. Implications for practice and policy include increasing awareness of adopted stepchildren and paying greater attention to the legal context under which stepchildren are adopted.

Ancillary