Purpose: Adoption studies have reported that adopted children are at-risk for social-emotional problems. Problems are due in part to negative pre-adoption experiences or difficulty adjusting to a new environment and building relationships with adoptive parents. Adoptive parents also experience stress in the process of transitioning to parenthood and in interacting with their adopted children. Given these social-emotional and psychological concerns of adoptive families, this study has two purposes. First, this study explores the relationships between adopted children's social-emotional development and parental stress. Second, this study investigates the effectiveness of Responsive Teaching (RT) intervention on social-emotional development of adopted children and parental stress.
Methods: The sample included 42 parent-child dyads (one to five years old), who participated in either 3 or 6 months of weekly RT intervention between 2005 and 2007. RT intervention is a manualized curriculum that encourages parents to engage in highly responsive interaction with their adopted children in daily routine. Identical data were collected before and after the intervention. The measures included the Parental Stress Index (PSI), the Arizona Social Support Interview Schedule and three child's social-emotional development measures: the Child Behavior Checklist, the Temperament and Atypical Behavior Scale, and the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale. Ordinary Least Square regression was conducted with pre-intervention data to explore the factors which influence parental stress. Repeated measures multivariate analysis of variance was conducted to assess the effects of RT intervention.
Results: There are two major findings. First, multiple regression analyses indicated that children's social-emotional functioning explained a large portion of parental stress (R˛= . 65, p < .01), controlling for demographic characteristics of parents and children and social support. In detail, factors of children's internalizing behavior problem (β = .40, p < .05), hypersensitive/active style of temperament (β = -. 41, p < .05), underreative style of behavior (β = - .34, p < .05), and communication (β = .47, p < .05) predicted parental stress. Second, multivariate analyses indicated the significant improvements on children's behaviors problems (F (2, 34) =11.32, p <. 01, η˛=. 4), children's social emotional functioning (F (4, 32) =7.66, p <.01, η˛ = .49), and children's adaptive behaviors (F (4, 30) = 6, p< .01, η˛ = .45) after RT intervention. Although the total PSI score was not reduced significantly, two subscales of the PSI, Parental Distress and Parent-Child Dysfunctional Interaction, were significantly reduced after the intervention.
Implication: The factors of adopted children's internalizing behavior problems, underreative style of behavior, and hypersensitivity predicted parental stress. It is because these types of children's behaviors challenge adoptive parents who try to build a healthy parent-child attachment. Thus, attention should focus on providing an intervention to help adoptive families engage in highly responsive interaction and promote children's social-emotional development. RT intervention meets these needs by providing concrete parent-child interaction strategies and promoting pivotal developmental behaviors related to children's social-emotional issues. This study results showed the effectiveness of RT intervention on promoting children's social-emotional development and reducing parental stress. Therefore, agencies working with adoptive families should consider RT intervention.