The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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MTARP Participants

Each of the families in the project adopted a child in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Families and birthmothers were first interviewed between 1987 and 1992 (Wave 1), again between 1996 and 2000 (Wave 2), and again between 2005 - 2008 (Wave 3). Grotevant and colleagues at the Minnesota site have followed the adopted children and their adoptive parents (e.g., Grotevant, Ross, Marchel, & McRoy, 1999; Dunbar & Grotevant, 2004); McRoy and colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin have followed the children's birthmothers (e.g., Christian, et al., 1997; Fravel, et al., 2000). Adoptive families and birthmothers were recruited for the study through 35 adoption agencies located across the United States.

Wave 1: 1986 - 1992

Families where there was at least one adopted child (the "target child") between the ages of 4 and 12 at the time of the interview, who was adopted through an agency before his or her first birthday, and in which both adoptive parents were married to the partner they had at the time of the adoption were selected for the study. Transracial, international, or "special needs" adoptees were not included. Participants in the study were located in 23 different states from all regions of the U.S., making this study the only nationwide one of its kind.

At Wave 1, the study's participants included 720 individuals:

Both parents in 190 adoptive families,

At least one adopted child in 171 of the families, and

169 birthmothers

The vast majority of adoptive parents were Caucasian, Protestant and middle to upper-middle class.

Of the 190 adoptive couples interviewed, 177 identified themselves as Caucasian, 3 as Latino, 1 as African American, and 1 as Latino and Caucasian. Eight couples gave no indication of their race but were identified by interviewers as Caucasian.

These couples reflect the population of families who are typically involved in formally adopting unrelated children, and birthmothers who tend to place their children for adoption.

Virtually all adoptive parents in the study had adopted because of infertility. The average level of education was 16.2 years for adoptive fathers and 15.1 for adoptive mothers. Adoptive fathers ranged in age from 32 to 53 (mean = 40.7) and adoptive mothers from 31 to 50 (mean = 39.1).

The birthmothers ranged in age from 14 to 36 years (mean = 19.1). Almost 2/3 of the birthmothers delivered when they were teenagers.

At the time of the study, the birthmothers ranged in age from 21 - 43 (mean = 27.1), and the average number of years of education attained was 13.5. Income ranged from 0 to $50,000+; the modal income range was between $20,000 - 29,000. In terms of ethnicity, 157 (92.9%) were Caucasian, 4 (2.4%) were Latino, 2 (1.2%) were Native American, 1 each were African American and Asian American, and 4 did not list their ethnicity. Half of the birthmothers were currently married, and they had from 1 - 5 children.

Wave 2: 1996 - 2001

At Wave 2, participants included the parents and target adopted adolescent from 177 adoptive families: 173 adoptive mothers, 162 adoptive fathers, and 156 adopted adolescents (75 boys and 81 girls). At Wave 2, data are also available on 88 siblings and 127 birthmothers.

Wave 3: 2005 - 2008

At least one adoptive family member from 181 (95%) of the 190 original adoptive families recruited at W1 participated at W3. The W3 sample included 169 young adults (n = 87 males, 82 females; ages 20.77 - 30.34; M = 24.95 years). Young adults (YA) were asked to identify the person with whom they had the closest relationship. YAs were interviewed about their relationship with that person, and we asked their consent to invite their closest relationship partners (YAP) to participate as well. A total of 103 young adult partners (YAP) participated. Adoptive mothers and adoptive fathers from the original 190 adoptive families at Wave I were invited to participate at Wave 3. The W3 sample included 151 adoptive mothers and 134 adoptive fathers.

Wave 4: 2012 - 2014

All target adopted young adults (YAs) from the original 190 families recruited into MTARP at Wave 1 were invited to participate, with the exception of one young adult, who was known to be deceased. The W4 sample included 114 young adults (n = 50 males, 64 females; ages 26.29 – 37.51; M = 31.43 years). 

For more detailed information on the MTARP participants, download the following files: