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February 09, 2007

Adoptive Parents Invest as Much in Raising Children as Biological Parents Do

New American Sociological Review study shows adoptive
parents spend as much time and money as natural parents

WASHINGTON, DC – The February 2007 issue of the American Sociological Review (ASR), the flagship journal of the American Sociological Association (ASA), features new research on adoptive and biological parents, comparing child-rearing factors between parents who adopt versus biological parents.

In “Adoptive Parents, Adaptive Parents: Evaluating the Importance of Biological Ties for Parental Investment,” sociologist Brian Powell (Indiana University-Bloomington), and colleagues Simon Cheng (University of Connecticut), and Laura Hamilton (Indiana University-Bloomington) examine how much parents spend on their children in terms of time and other resources.  With public concern rising over China’s decision to restrict U.S. parents’ adoptions of Chinese orphans, and debates across the United States over whether same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt, this study provides timely and definitive evidence that adoptive parents invest just as much in raising their children as do biological parents.  The research shows that biological and adoptive families are more similar than previously believed.

The study analyzed four different types of parental resources: economic, cultural, interactional, and social capital.  Indicators of economic resources were:  number of children’s books, presence of a computer in the home for the child to use, and attendance in a private school.  Cultural resources were those in which parents engage children in particular skill-building exercises.  These include reading-related activities, math-related activities, other cultural activities, and number of extracurricular activities.  Interactional resources involve unfocused parental interaction with children, such as assistance with schoolwork, talking with the child, and number of meals eaten with the child.  Finally, social capital resources were measured through number of children’s parents that the child’s parents talk with regularly, parents’ involvement in the school, and religious involvement. 

“We demonstrate that the absence of a biological tie between parents and their children does not unequivocally constitute a disadvantage in at least one key family process—the allocation of resources to young children.  We find that the two-adoptive-parent family structure is remarkably similar to the two-biological-parent-family structure in that it provides adoptive children an advantage over children in other alternative family structures,” the authors say.

To obtain a copy of the article, click here or visit

Contact: Sujata Sinha, (202) 247-9871,, or Tracy James, Indiana University, 812-855-0084,


The American Sociological Review is the flagship journal of the 101-year-old American Sociological Association (ASA). Vincent J. Roscigno and Randy Hodson, both of Ohio State University, are co-editors of the American Sociological Review.

About the American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association (, founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.