How do adopted adults see the significance of adoption and being a parent in their life stories? A narrative analysis of 40 life story interviews with male and female adoptees

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Being adopted and becoming a parent are both highly significant events in the life course. How adopted people represent adoption and parenthood in their life stories is the focus of the current study. The research explored the views of adopted people who were parents, focusing on those adopted since the late 1980s in order to capture the experiences of people adopted through the child protection system. The participants were 40 adult adoptees who had at least one child. Equal numbers of men and women were recruited, and purposive sampling was used to ensure a diverse range of people were included. Most participants (34 of 40) were in their 20s or 30s and age at adoption varied from 0 to 12 years old. All except one person were domestically adopted in England, with two-thirds having been adopted through the child protection system; 32 were White British, and 8 were Black, Mixed or Asian ethnicity. An adaptation of McAdam’s life story interview method was used to enable participants to describe their whole life including their adoption and being a parent. Interviews were first analysed ‘within case’ looking at narrative themes and structure. Then looking across cases four types of life story narrative were identified: “continuously stable”, “pulling through”, “still struggling” and “robbed of parenthood”. The research illustrates the wide diversity of adopted people’s experiences and the ongoing impact of difficult early life experiences on adopted individuals as adults and parents. Parenting raised additional challenges for many adopted people, but could also be a positive turning point. The pathways to overcoming (or not overcoming) early adversity to succeed as parents are illustrated and the role of adoption as both a risk and protective factor is discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107267
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Early online date27 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Adoption
  • Adult adoptees
  • Adoptee parents
  • Life story narratives

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