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  The Experiences of Being an Adoptive Parent in the UK

   Faculty of Management, Law and Social Sciences

  Dr Gill Waters  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Most adopted children have experienced neglect, trauma, or disruption to early caregiving, all of which can result in elevated levels of mental health difficulties and additional needs (Hornfeck et al, 2019). Traumatised children often exhibit complex and disorganised behaviour, do not sleep well, and need intensive parenting which can exhaust parents (Pennington, 2012). Adopted children also tend to have more medical and educational requirements than their biological peers (Fisher, 2015). Successfully managing all these issues requires exceptional parenting skills (Goldberg & Smith, 2014) but even though they undergo preparatory training, many adoptive parents struggle and end up suffering from chronic stress and anxiety (Anthony, Paine, & Shelton, 2019). The amount and quality of post-adoption support that a family receives significantly contributes to the adoption placement stability. However, the support offered in the UK is often inconsistent or non-existent depending on location, and can be limited to advice or counselling, which is often inappropriate and inadequate for the severity of the problems (Featherstone, Gupta & Mills, 2018).

This PhD research topic will expand upon a strand of Dr Gill Waters’ existing research. Directions could involve investigating whether adoptive parents’ felt prepared to manage their children’s additional needs; their experiences of post-adoption support; or the comparison between parenting a biological child and an adopted child. There is the potential for post-doctoral and larger-scale future research in this area.

Applications to this project are welcome through the University of Bradford web site.

Psychology (31)

Funding Notes

This is a self-funded PhD project; applicants will be expected to pay their own fees or have a suitable source of third-party funding. UK applicants may be able to access the Doctoral Loan from Student Finance.


Anthony, Paine, & Shelton (2019). Depression and Anxiety Symptoms of British Adoptive Parents: A Prospective Four-Wave Longitudinal Study. Int J of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(24):5153. https://doi: 10.3390/ijerph16245153.
Featherstone, B., Gupta, A., & Mills, S. (2018). The role of the social worker in adoption – ethics and human rights: An Enquiry. Birmingham: BASW
Fisher, P. A. (2015). Review: Adoption, fostering, and the needs of looked-after and adopted children. Child Adolesc Ment Health, 20(1): 5–12. https://doi: 10.1111/camh.12084
Goldberg, A. E. & Smith, J. Z. (2014). Parent-school relationships and young adopted children’s psychological adjustment in lesbian-, gay-, and heterosexual-parent families. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 40(3), 174-187.
Hornfeck, F., Bovenschen, I., Heene, S., et al. (2019). Emotional and behavior problems in adopted children - The role of early adversities and adoptive parents' regulation and behavior. Child Abuse & Neglect, 98, 104-221.
Pennington, E. (2012). It Takes a Village to Raise a Child: Adoption UK survey on adoption support. Banbury: Adoption UK

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