Grandmothers' reactions to having adopted grandchildren

Date of Completion

January 1998


Sociology, Theory and Methods|Psychology, General|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




In the United States, approximately 74,000 children are adopted by nonrelatives each year. Considerable information is available about adopted children and adoptive parents. However, there is no information on the reactions of grandparents about the family adoptions. This study explores grandmothers' reactions to their adult children's decisions to adopt, grandmothers' roles in, and reactions to, the adoption processes, and, most important, their feelings about their adopted grandchildren. ^ Eighty-three grandmothers, ages 55 to 90, were interviewed by telephone. They had a total of 119 adopted grandchildren, ranging in age from newborn to 30 years. The adopted children were from 15 different countries and included same-race and cross-race, as well as healthy and special needs children, in closed and varying degrees of open adoptions. ^ Analysis of grounded theory interviews derived (a) issues which may predispose grandmothers to favor or to disapprove adoption beforehand, (b) issues which may influence grandmothers' degrees of satisfaction/disappointment, after completed adoptions, and (c) comparison of such issues within and between groups for grandmothers of four categories of adopted children: disabled, African-American, single-mothered, and healthy Caucasian. ^ The study found agreement with all research literature findings on biological grandparenting. The grandmothers' fulfillment of a kinkeeper role and their positive attitudes overcome the ambiguity of connectedness and boundaries inherent in adoption. All the grandmothers in the study expressed acceptance of the adopted grandchildren and, insofar as feasible, great enjoyment of them. The grandmothers were optimistic about societal acceptance of racial differences and single mothering. In situations of stress to the adoptive homes because of disability or other pressures, grandmothers seemed more protective of their own adult adoptive children than of the grandchildren. The study recommends increased inclusion of grandmothers, by both prospective adoptive parent(s) and adoption agencies, in the early stages of adoption planning and completion, to alleviate questions and concerns and to further adopted grandchild-grandmother family connection. The dissertation discusses the grounded theory methodology, the effect of telephone interviews, the meaning of grandmotherhood to grandmothers, and possible future research relevant to the subject of grandmothers of adopted children. ^