Research on open adoption is not new. In fact, the most thorough studies were conducted in the 1980s and 90s. These were longitudinal studies that had amazing, almost identical results.
A longitudinal study is a type of research that observes the same data in repeated fashion. In these cases, adoptive parents were asked to respond to researchers about the impact of openness on psychological health and growth. The results were overwhelmingly positive for open adoption.
The Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project, or MTARP, found that the self-esteem of children between ages four and 12 were not impacted in any way by either open or closed adoption. Likewise, the parents of these children were not more or less satisfied by open adoptions. However, adoptees who had relationships with birth parents did prove to be more psychologically adjusted better than in closed adoptions.
MTARP carried out another round of research, this time with children who were ages 11 to 21. The research found that all children wanted to know more about their biological parents. Those in open adoptions were much more satisfied in this area than those is closed adoptions. They also did not feel hatred, anger or confusion about their birth parents. Conversely, most children in closed adoptions held negativity toward their birth mothers. Though they did not know and had never met these women, they universally wanted to meet their biological mothers. Many had even tried to contact these women without success.
The California Long-Range Adoption Study, or CLAS, included three waves of study. These three waves took place two, four and seven years after each adoption was finalized. Like the MTARP study, CLAS found adoptive parents were just as happy and as close with their children in closed adoptions as they were in open ones. The adoptive parents did often wish for a change in contact with the biological mothers. In almost all cases, that change was to have more contact rather than less. By the third wave of the study, most adoptive parents stated they felt the open relationship had a positive impact on their child. None felt the relationships between birth parents and children were negative in any way.
These studies show that open adoptions almost always have a positive impact on children and their families. Those who do not report positive responses feel neutral about the adoption. There is no negativity toward the adoptive mother or the process in any of this research. Though much more research needs to be done, adoptive parents can look to studies like these to see that open adoptions are the right option for almost every family.