Adoption status: a risk factor or protective factor for children of divorced families

Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Gordon E. Finley

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Sandy Lobar

Third Advisor's Name

Paulette Johnson

Fourth Advisor's Name

Marilyn Montgomery

Fifth Advisor's Name

Jonathan Tubman

Date of Defense



This study examined two competitive hypotheses: the double-jeopardy hypothesis and the buffering effect hypothesis on whether parental divorce affects adopted children and non-adopted children similarly or differently. The double-jeopardy hypothesis suggests that when adopted children experience their parents' divorce, they perform worse because they carry two risk factors, adoption status and parental divorce, while their non-adopted counterparts carry only the risk factor of their parents' divorce. The buffering effect hypothesis suggests that, being adopted children, their previous experiences of parental loss help them better deal with the later loss of their parents' divorce so their adoption status is a protective factor rather than a risk factor.

Secondary analyses of a nation-wide data set were executed using different statistical methods such as ANOVA and Chi-square on different outcome variables. The results indicated that there was no evidence supporting the double-jeopardy hypothesis. That is, adopted children from divorced families did not perform significantly worse than the non-adopted children from divorced families on any outcome variable. The results also indicated that there was only weak evidence supporting the buffering effect hypothesis. The general conclusion based on the results from most of the outcome variables suggest that adopted children from divorced families do not perform differently than the biological children from divorced families.



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