Background: This study examined the relation between three variables related to adoptive family relationships (post-adoption contact between adoptive and birth family members, adoption communicative openness, and satisfaction with contact) and adoptee externalizing behavior in adolescence and emerging adulthood.
Method: The study included 190 families of infant-placed, domestic adoptees during childhood, adolescence, and emerging adulthood. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to analyze predictors of externalizing behavior from contact (adoptive parents and adolescent reports), adoption communicative openness (adoptive mothers), and satisfaction with contact (adoptive parents and adolescent).
Results: Externalizing behavior showed moderate stability across childhood, adolescence, and emerging adulthood. Contact and adoption communicative openness were related to each other, but not to externalizing behaviors in adolescence or emerging adulthood. Controlling for the effect of Childhood Externalizing, adoptive families most satisfied with contact reported relative declines in adoptee externalizing behavior during adolescence compared to those in less satisfied families. Satisfaction was also indirectly associated with Emerging Adult Externalizing, through its effect on Adolescent Externalizing.
Conclusions: Although contact and adoption communicative openness were highly correlated with each other, neither was related to adoptees’ externalizing behavior in adolescence or emerging adulthood. Family-level satisfaction with contact was more predictive of externalizing outcomes.