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First-of-its-kind research in US shows benefits of early adoption disclosure

Professor Amanda Baden’s latest study published in Journal of Family Issues

Posted in: Education, Human Services

Amanda Baden

Groundbreaking research has been completed by a Montclair State University faculty member that hopes to provide a road map for when parents should disclose their children’s adoption statuses.

The study, published in the Journal of Family Issues, is the first research in the United States showing adults who discovered they were adopted after the age of 3 – known as “late discovery adoptees” – reported greater emotional distress and overall lower life satisfaction, with increased levels of distress being reported the older a respondent discovered he or she was adopted.

The findings contradict decades of previous recommendations as to when adoption status should be disclosed, with past studies advising parents a range of options from waiting until after childhood or to disclose the status between the ages of 4-13.

Montclair State University Counseling and Educational Leadership Professor Amanda Baden served as the lead researcher on the study and was joined by a team of Montclair State doctoral students throughout the process.

“I was approached by two independent researchers who wanted to collaborate on this study,” says Baden of the research process. “They were both late discovery adoptees and were part of a large community of other adoptees who learned of their adoptions as adults. They wanted to explore the impact of delayed disclosure on coping and on adoptees’ lives, so I am honored to be able to be able to make this contribution to the community.”

Currently leading the adoption research team at Montclair State University, Baden actively leads research studies in collaboration with advanced master’s and doctoral students in the University’s counseling programs.

Focusing her research on transracial adoption, counseling and therapy with the Adoption Triad (adoptee, adoptive parents and birth parents), and identity and racial ethnic issues in adoption, she hopes these latest findings will pave the way for further research and more uniform guidelines as to how to best disclose a child’s adoption status.

“One of the most interesting findings was that, if we don’t account for coping behaviors, those who experienced the most distress by delayed adoption disclosure were adolescents,” says Baden of the research. “However, when we accounted for the increased coping skills and options available to adults, we understood that distress actually increased as people got older. The participants shared in their narrative accounts that the betrayal they felt was a significant factor. Our findings really emphasize how secrecy and lies in adoption become corrosive to those involved.”

Click here to view the complete study in the Journal of Family Issues.

To learn more about Montclair State University’s programmatic offerings in counseling, visit montclair.edu/academics/counseling.