From trust to intimacy: A comparison of the psychosocial development of adoptees vs. nonadoptees

Michelle Renee Gross, Pace University


Although many clinical papers have been written about the psychological effects of growing up as an adopted child, few empirical studies have been conducted to investigate whether adopted children actually differ from nonadopted children in their psychological development. The present study attempted to clarify the existing research and examine the effects of growing up as an adopted child on the resolution of the developmental conflicts that have been described by Erik Erikson's theory of identity development. In addition, other variables that may impact on the development of the adopted child were examined as well, including age at which the adoptee was informed of his or her adoptive status, the ethnic backgrounds of the adoptees as compared with their adoptive parents, and possession of knowledge about one's birthmother. Thirty adoptees between the ages of 15 and 20 were recruited through adoption organizations, adoption agencies, and professional contacts. A comparable group of thirty nonadoptees was recruited by networking via the adopted sample. Adolescents in both groups were asked to complete the Erikson Psychosocial Stage Inventory, a demographic sheet, and cards I, III, and VII of the Rorschach Inkblot Test. A series of one-way analyses of variance were computed for the dependent variables for the adopted group compared with the nonadopted group. While no overall differences in scores were found, adoptees scored more positively on the subscale measuring Erikson's Industry vs. Inferiority stage. Additional ANOVAs performed to compare whether adoptees informed of their adoption before the age of 5 differed from adoptees who were informed after age 5 yielded no significant differences on any of the variables. Similarly, ANOVAs performed to assess whether adoptees who were adopted transethnically differed from adoptees who were of the same ethnic background as their adoptive parents showed that adoptees of the same ethnic background scored more positively on the Intimacy subscale of the EPSI than did transethnically adopted adolescents. Adoptees who indicated that they had some information about their birthmothers were compared with adoptees who had no information regarding their birthmothers, and ANOVAs showed a significant difference between the two groups on the Autonomy subscale, with the no information group showing more positive scores than the group that had information. Finally, a MANOVA was computed to compare adoptees from rural areas with adoptees from urban or suburban areas, and no significant differences were found.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Gross, Michelle Renee, "From trust to intimacy: A comparison of the psychosocial development of adoptees vs. nonadoptees" (1991). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9135943.



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