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The Scientific World Journal
Volume 2016 (2016), Article ID 6303490, 16 pages
Review Article

Is Early Experience Destiny? Review of Research on Long-Term Outcomes following International Adoption with Special Reference to the British Chinese Adoption Study

1CoramBAAF Academy of Adoption and Fostering, London WC1N 1AZ, UK
2Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, London SE5 8AF, UK

Received 12 June 2015; Revised 12 January 2016; Accepted 16 February 2016

Academic Editor: Helen Minnis

Copyright © 2016 Margaret Grant et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The pathway from adverse early experience to adulthood for internationally adopted children is complex in identifying key influences, impacts, and outcomes. This review arose from the authors’ involvement in the British Chinese Adoption Study, a recent outcomes study that explored the links between early orphanage care, adoptive experiences, and midadulthood. It differs from previous reviews in focusing on a greater length of time since adoption. Both quantitative and qualitative studies were included to allow for examination of a fuller range of adult-related outcomes rather than mental health scores alone. The sampling, methods, and results of reviewed articles are summarised and a critical commentary is provided. Despite methodological differences and identified strengths and weaknesses, conclusions are drawn on the basis of the evidence available. Special attention is paid to the interpretation of negative outcomes. Findings identify areas that should be explored further in order to gain a fuller understanding of midlife outcomes of people who experienced a poor start in life followed by international adoption. Such studies help in refining lifespan developmental theories.