The Emotional Nature of Birth Family Relationships for Care-experienced and Adopted Young People: A Longitudinal Perspective

Montserrat Fargas-Malet and Dominic McSherry - Journal of Family Issues


Research focused on relationships and contact with birth family for children and young people who were separated from them as infants has rarely acknowledged the emotional and dynamic nature of such interactions. Curiosity has been dominant in adoption research. However, in our longitudinal study of young people who entered care at a young age, a range of other feelings and combination of feelings emerged in the youths’ narratives, including contentment and mixed feelings such as anger, affection, loss, guilt, or worry. Type of placement, that is, whether the young people had been adopted, lived with kinship foster carers or non-relative foster parents, did not determine their emotional reactions to their birth family. The young people’s perspectives and emotions often changed over time. In this article, we describe the young people’s emotional responses to birth family, and highlight implications for theory, research, and practice.