Experiences of adoption disruption: parents' perspectives

Elizabeth Lyttle, Paul Mc Cafferty, Brian Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adoption can provide a lifetime of benefits for children. Some adoptions however, experience severe challenges resulting in disruption with children leaving home prematurely.

This qualitative study in Northern Ireland used interviews with parents from thirteen families whose adoptions had disrupted, to explore their perspective on the experience.

Key findings focused on issues relating to firstly, the adopted child; secondly, adoption services; and finally, the parents and other family members. The impact of early adverse experiences on the children (developmental trauma) played out through behaviours, often violent, that their parents found extremely challenging. These increased as the children aged and had serious effects on family life. The adoptive parents thought they could have been better prepared through the adoption process to face challenging behaviours and more appropriately supported to prevent disruption. When their adopted child was admitted to state care, the parents typically felt initial relief but also guilt and loss. After the child had left home, they generally wished for more involvement with him or her despite the difficulties experienced.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1
Number of pages19
JournalChild Care in Practice
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 26 May 2021


  • Adoption
  • Adoption disruption
  • Parenting
  • Risk
  • Adoption breakdown
  • Trauma


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