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The long-term consequences of domestic infant adoption

Researchers: Professor Barbara Maughan | Dr. Alan Rushton ...

Project overview

Adoption constitutes a major intervention that can have lifelong effects on individuals, as shown by the numbers of adopted adults who seek specialist advice and counselling 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 few, if 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 or 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.


  • Professor Barbara Maughan
    King's College London
  • Dr. Alan Rushton
    King's College London
  • Margaret Grant
    British Assocation for Adoption & Fostering

  • Director, Welfare
    Nuffield Foundation
  • Cheryl Lloyd
    Programme Head, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

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