The long-term consequences of domestic infant adoption

Adoption constitutes a major intervention that can have lifelong effects on individual lives, as shown by the numbers of adopted adults who seek specialist advice and counseling services. However systematic evidence on the outcomes of adoption beyond the early adult years is severely limited. This study will begin to fill that gap by exploring the long-term consequences of infant domestic adoption using data from the 1958 British birth cohort (the National Child Development Study, NCDS) and the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70).

Adopted children from the 1958 and 1970 cohorts were mostly placed with their new parents after only short periods in foster care, and fewif any had been exposed to the neglectful or abusive experiences common among adopted children today. This research can therefore look at whether adoption per se is associated with increased vulnerabilities and negative outcomes.

  • The researchers aim to provide a comprehensive picture of the health, functioning and well-being of adopted members of the cohorts at mid-life, through exploring:
  • Differences in development, and whether difficulties in adolescence/ early adulthood diminish or persist;
  • Whether males are more vulnerable than females;
  • Whether early separation from birth parents has consequences for adult relationships;

Whether particular factors predict differential outcomes. 

Project details



Professor Barbara Maughan, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, King's College London

Dr. Alan Rushton, King's College London

Margaret Grant, British Assocation for Adoption & Fostering

Grant amount and duration


June 2015 - March 2017