The British Chinese Adoption Study: orphanage care, adoption and mid-life outcomes


Rushton A, Grant M, Feast J & Simmonds J (2013) The British Chinese Adoption Study: orphanage care, adoption and mid-life outcomes. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54 (11), pp. 1215-1222.

Background: While studies of ex-orphanage care show adverse effects on development, the longer-term impact on mid-life psychosocial functioning and physical health has not been established. Methods: Orphanage records provided baseline data on a sample of 100 Hong Kong Chinese girls who were subsequently adopted into the UK. A mid-life follow-up using standardised questionnaires and face-to-face interviews assessed current circumstances, life satisfaction and mental and physical health outcomes. Comparisons were made with age-matched UK-born adopted and nonadopted women. Results: Half the group spent between 1 and 2 years in orphanages, average age at adoptive placement was 23 months and 72% participated in the follow-up. Despite this poor early start, mid-life outcomes were commensurate with the comparison groups in terms of mental and physical health measures. Serious psychiatric and social difficulties were largely absent. Although the timing and extent of exposure to orphanage care did not influence outcome, participants’ reports of poorer quality adoptive family experience and a negative view of their adoption were significantly associated with poorer mental health outcomes (difference in means = 0.76, 95% CI 1.33–0.19, p = .01; difference in means = 1.2, 95% CI 0.68–1.73, p = .01, respectively). Conclusions: Moderately depriving orphanage care did not predict enduring adverse consequences in mid-life but subsequent poor adoption experience was associated with outcome.

Orphanage care, international adoption, long-term follow-up, adult outcomes.

Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry: Volume 54, Issue 11

FundersThe Nuffield Foundation
Publication date30/11/2013
Publication date online03/06/2013
Date accepted by journal15/04/2013