Special needs adoption from China: Exploring child-level indicators, adoptive family characteristics, and correlates of behavioral adjustment

Document Type



Institute for Human Development


Since 1994, China has been a leading source of international adoptions in the US, and since 2000, an increasing number of these children have entered the country under the special needs classification. While there is a large body of research on domestic special needs adoptions, very little is known about special needs adoptions from China. This study took advantage of a large survey of 1096 adopted Chinese children to explore a number of questions on special needs adoptions from China. The sample included 124 children adopted under the special needs classification. In addition to parental reports of child behavioral problems on the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), data on age at adoption, type of special needs, pre-adoption adversity, developmental delays at adoption, and Initial Adaptation to Adoption were collected retrospectively from the adoptive parents. The analysis revealed no differences between special needs (SN) and non-special needs (NS) children on any of the measures. In addition, the nature of the disabilities associated with the SN classification for many of the children may not pose significant challenges to optimal development. Policy and practice implications are discussed in light of these findings.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.


Children and Youth Services Review