The educational aspirations and psychological well-being of adopted young people in the UK

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

Adoption & Fostering


Andrew Brown, Cerith S. Waters and Katherine H. Shelton

Publication date


Much is hypothesised but little is known about the effects of early adversity on school experience, academic attainment and career aspiration for children and young people adopted from care. Drawing on data from Wave 1 of the Youth (10‒15 years old) Questionnaire (n = 4899) from the United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Survey (UKHLS), also known as Understanding Society, this study explored differences between young people adopted (n = 22) and a matched comparison group (n = 110) on measures of educational and occupational aspirations and psychological well-being. Adopted young people reported higher externalising and total difficulties scores (based on the SDQ, Goodman, 1997) than the general population comparison group, but equivalent internalising symptoms. Adopted children were more likely to show an intention to seek full-time work at the end of compulsory schooling. These findings align with previous research regarding the psychological well-being of adopted children, contribute new knowledge about the aspirations of young people adopted from care and highlight methodological issues when utilising large-scale panel survey data for narrowly defined sub-groups.

Volume and page numbers

43, 46-59



Psychology, Young People, Education, Child Development, Labour Market, Well Being, Life Course Analysis and Sociology Of Households