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). An online survey of the young adult adoptees was conducted between 2012 - 2014 (Wave 4); a subset of birth mothers was also interviewed at Wave 4. Grotevant and colleagues have followed the adopted children and their adoptive parents (e.g., Grotevant, Ross, Marchel, & McRoy, 1999; Dunbar & Grotevant, 2004); McRoy and colleagues have followed the children's birth mothers (e.g., Christian, et al., 1997; Fravel, et al., 2000). Adoptive families and birth mothers 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 a US private adoption 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 birth mothers

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

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

These couples reflect the population of families who are typically involved in formally adopting unrelated infants through private agencies, and birth mothers 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 birth mothers 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 birth mothers 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 non-Hispanic White, 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 birth mothers.

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 112 young adults (n = 50 males, 62 females; ages 26.29 – 37.51; M = 31.43 years). 

All 169 birth mothers who participated in the original MTARP study at Wave 1 (W1) were re-contacted in 2003 and again in 2009 to assess their willingness to participate in a Wave 4 (W4) round of data collection. At that time, 81 birthmothers provided a brief update on their adoption arrangements and indicated their willingness to be re-contacted about future participation. When W4 began in 2012, 72 of these birthmothers could be located and were invited to participate again. W4 data collection occurred between 2012 and 2016. The W4 sample included 39 birth mothers (M = 50.36 years; SD=4.14) who provided complete data on all W4 measures. Approximately 68% of birth mothers who completed the demographic survey reported being married; 76% had at least one parented child. Twenty-four birth mothers were employed full-time and about 62% had received a bachelor’s degree or higher. Twenty-six of the birth mothers were in current contact with their placed child, and for 15 of those birth mothers the contact has been continuous since placement.

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