Longitudinal analyses of adoptive parents’ expectations and depressive symptoms

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Expectations held by individuals are powerful psychological constructs that affect how we experience our world. Within a family context, expectations may be both precursors to and influences on subsequent behaviors. Married couples’ prenatal expectations and their association with marital satisfaction differed by the type of expectation and by spousal role (Lawrence, Nylen, & Cobb, 2007). In another example, using the Expectancy‐Value Theory of Achievement Motivation (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002), Kirby (2016) found that parental expectations predicted outcomes of young adult children with autism spectrum disorder.
In the context of adoption, parental expectations may originate from a variety of sources, including the competence and legitimacy of the adoptive parent, how the parent and child bond, and the well‐being of the child. Thus, parental expectations of adoptive parents overlap with those of birth parents, but they may also differ because of the unique dynamics of the adoption process. For adoptive parents, expectations surrounding the placement of a child may be influenced by the parents’ mental well‐being, or in turn influence their mental status. Thus, the child's well‐being may be affected (Goldberg & Smith, 2013; Pemberton et al., 2010; Tully, Iacono, & McGue, 2008).
In the current study, we built on the social construct of expectations and employed Foli's mid‐range theory (Foli, 2010; Foli, South, & Lim, 2014) of parental post‐adoption depression to examine changes in expectations from pre‐ to post‐placement. We also analyzed the relationship between parental expectations and depressive symptoms across time. This study is relevant to family nursing because non‐traditional families, such as adoptive families, require informed care based on the unique context of the adoption process and the integration of a new child over time.

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