Doctor of Philosophy
James R. Seaberg
A correlational approach was utilized in this study to investigate the relationship between adoption related task performance and perceived quality of life of families with an adopted special-needs child. Additionally, a set of contextual variables suggested by the literature to influence family functioning with an adopted special-needs child were also studied. Purposive and availability sampling approaches were employed to identify the sample of special-needs adoptive families (N = 289) to whom a survey questionnaire was sent. Both mothers and fathers were asked to complete the Survey.
Eighty-six mothers and 53 fathers completed and returned the survey questionnaire ( N: 91 families). The sample was approximately 60% Caucasian and 40% minority, primarily middle class, protestant, and with one adopted special-needs child currently living in the home. On average, the child had been in the adoptive home for 5.9 years since placement.
It was found that contextual variables, rather than variables associated with task performance, were stronger predictors of perceived quality of life for both mothers and fathers. The contextual variable, stress related to parenting, emerged as the strongest predictor of lower measures of satisfaction for both mothers and fathers. In addition, for mothers, spousal support was a significant predictor of higher satisfaction with life, family life, relationship with child, and marriage. For fathers, the adoption related task, participating in adoptive family reunions, was a significant predictor of higher family life satisfaction.
It was suggested that social workers can take a role in implementing services that help adoptive parents cope with stress, and enhance their opportunities for increased socialization with other adopters. Policies and services which ultimately enhance the adoptive family's sense of competence through such activities as these should be developed, funded, and implemented.
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