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The Gerontologist 48:527-536 (2008)
© 2008 The Gerontological Society of America

Creating Grander Families: Older Adults Adopting Younger Kin and Nonkin

James Hinterlong, PhD1 and Scott Ryan, PhD1

Correspondence: Address correspondence to Dr. Jim Hinterlong, College of Social Work, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-2570. E-mail: jhinterlong{at}

Purpose: There is a dearth of research on older adoptive parents caring for minor children, despite a growing number of such adoptions finalized each year. This study offers a large-scale investigation of adoptive families headed by older parents. We describe these families and explore how preadoptive kinship between the adoptive parent and the child impacts adoption outcomes. Design and Methods: We analyze data from kin (n = 98) and nonkin (n = 310) adoptive families headed by adults aged 60 years and older. Results: We find that older kin adoptive families are smaller, report lower income, and include adoptive mothers with less formal education. Children in these families had less severe needs for special care at the time of placement. Although kin and nonkin older parents offer similar assessments of their parent–child relationships, kin adopters indicate a greater willingness to adopt the same child again and yet report less positive current family functioning. Multivariate regression analyses reveal that preadoptive kinship predicts more negative parental assessment of the adoption's impact on the family and less positive family functioning net of other parent, family, and child characteristics. Externalizing behavior by the child (e.g., delinquency or aggression) is the strongest predictor of deleterious outcomes for both groups. Implications: Kin adoption by older adults creates new families under strain but does not reduce parental commitment to the child. We conclude that older adults serve as effective adoptive parents but would benefit from preadoption and postadoption services to assist them in preparing for and positively addressing the challenging behaviors exhibited by adopted children.

Key Words: Grander familiesIntergenerational householdsOlder parents

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Copyright © 2008 by The Gerontological Society of America.