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An exploration of the help-seeking experiences of adoptive caregivers with children who have emotional and behavioural difficulties: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

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posted on 2015-10-15, 14:49 authored by Louise Maria Brittenden
Children adopted from care are likely to have been exposed to similar adverse, early experiences as those suffered by looked after children, and therefore have an increased risk of developing complex emotional and behavioural difficulties. Consequently, parenting an adopted child may present significant challenges. Despite government commitments to improve support for vulnerable children and their caregivers, post-adoption support is often lacking and therapeutic interventions for adoptive families are currently offered in the absence of a robust evidence base. The current literature review aimed to explore the efficacy of therapeutic interventions for adopted children and their caregivers. Synthesis of eleven studies found limited support for a positive impact of interventions on children’s behavioural functioning and caregivers’ confidence and perceived competency. However there was a paucity of evidence for the benefits of interventions for children’s emotional and relational functioning, a key reason why adoptive families seek support. Methodological weaknesses indicated multiple evidence requirements would provide a more effective approach to evaluating the efficacy of interventions. The research study sought to understand the lived experiences of adoptive caregivers’ formal and informal help-seeking for their children’s emotional and behavioural difficulties. Qualitative interviews were conducted with six adoptive mothers whose children were currently accessing a child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS). Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) generated four super-ordinate and 12 sub-themes, which enabled convergence and divergence within respondents’ experiences to be accounted for. With a view to informing post-adoption intervention, themes were discussed in relation to existing theory including; parental help-seeking, stigma and attachment. Further qualitative research of particular populations of adoptive caregivers and issues highlighted by the current study was recommended. The critical appraisal presents a reflective account of the research process to maximise transparency and facilitate readers’ evaluation of the research process.



Vostanis, Panos; Bonas, Sheila

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Psychology

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • DClinPsy



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