Fostering security? A meta-analysis of attachment in adopted children

Linda van den Dries, Femmie Juffer*, Marinus H. van IJzendoorn, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Adopted children are hypothesized to be at risk of insecure attachment relationships because of their background of institutional care, maltreatment and neglect. We conducted two series of meta-analyses, one using only observational assessments of attachment and one using both observational and self-report assessments. Observational assessments showed that children who were adopted before 12 months of age were as securely attached as their non-adopted peers, whereas children adopted after their first birthday showed less attachment security than non-adopted children (d = 0.80, CI = 0.49-1.12). Regarding the overall effect for attachment security, adoptees were comparable to foster children. Adopted children showed more disorganized attachments compared to their non-adopted peers (trimmed d = 0.36, CI = 0.04-0.68), but again were comparable to foster children (trimmed d = 0.35, CI = 0.02-0.67). Compared to institutionalized children, adoptees were less often disorganized attached. When self-report measures of attachment were included no difference was found between adoptees and their non-adopted counterparts (trimmed d = 0.12, CI = - 0.02-0.26, 39 studies, N = 2912 adopted children). Compared to institutionalized children, (early) adoption proves to be an effective intervention in the domain of attachment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-421
Number of pages12
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Adoption
  • Attachment
  • Foster care
  • Institutional care
  • Meta-analysis
  • Parent-child relationships


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