British Chinese Adoption Study

Adversity, adoption and afterwards book coverThe British Chinese Adoption Study is a long-term follow up study of a group of 100 girls brought from orphanage care in Hong Kong to the UK for adoption in the 1960s and early 1970s. 

A book titled 'Adversity, Adoption and Afterwards: a mid-life follow- up of women adopted from Hong Kong' detailing these findings in more depth is available to buy now through CoramBAAF’s online bookshop.

The initial findings from this research were presented at a BAAF conference: 'Orphanage care, adoption and afterwards – The British Chinese, the English Romanian and the Greek adoption studies’ on 11 October 2012.  

This study builds on a feasibility study that was also funded by the Nuffield Foundation and carried out by BAAF. It explores the women's experiences across a range of areas including relationships, family formation, education, employment and physical and mental health. We were delighted that 72 women of the original group of 100 adopted girls agreed to participate in the study.

Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire pack and take part in a face-to-face interview to help us find out more about their lives. The information collected has been compared with findings from other studies to explore the possible links between early childhood experiences and adult outcomes.

The researchers

Julia Feast receives her OBE from Her MajestyBAAF is carrying out this research in collaboration with Professor Alan Rushton from King's College, London who is the academic consultant for this project. The three other researchers are based at BAAF. The BAAF team is led by Julia Feast supported by Dr. John Simmonds and Margaret Grant.

Julia Feast was awarded an OBE for services to children and families in the 2012 Queen’s birthday honours.

Key findings

  • Overall, the findings are positive with good levels of mental and physical health, educational achievement, family life and relationships with adoptive family members.
  • Virtually all of the women reported some experience of racism or prejudice – this ranged from playground name-calling during childhood to racists taunts in adulthood.
  • 77% of the women were married or cohabiting; 71% were parents (including a small number who had adopted children). 97% said they had a person in their life they could turn to for support when needed – this was very similar to both the comparison groups.
  • On the study’s main measures of psychological adjustment and life satisfaction, there were no statistically significant differences between the ex-orphanage women and the comparison groups. However, the interviews with the women made it clear that this did not mean problem-free lives but most had managed to cope well enough when challenges arose.
  • The majority felt a sense of belonging in the UK and felt comfortable going out to public places. Most did not have close links with Chinese people in the UK.
  • There was no evidence of increased risk for major physical health problems; using the same comparison groups as above.
  • In comparison with other groups who had suffered more severe early deprivation or maltreatment, the following were almost entirely absent at the follow-up: contact with the criminal justice system, in-patient psychiatric care, removal of at risk children and serious drug/alcohol problems.

Read a full summary of the findings here (PDF opens in a new window)

The relevance of this study today

Adult follow-up studies are rare in the field of intercountry adoption, so this study provides a unique opportunity to learn more about the long-term outcomes for people adopted from overseas. Many Chinese girls continue to be placed in the UK and other Western countries for adoption - it is estimated that more than 70,000 children were brought to Western countries for adoption between 1998 and 2006 (including many hundreds to the UK). Over the past few years approximately half of all children adopted from overseas to the UK have been girls from China. This study will therefore have international importance and help refine practice and policy for intercountry adoption to ensure that the needs of children are kept at the forefront.

For further information

The women who took part in this study were adopted through the Hong Kong Adoption Project. All of the adoptions took place in the 1960s and early 1970s and were arranged through International Social Services working in partnership with National Children's Home & Orphanage (now Action for Children) and Barnardo's fostering and adoption. If you would like to know more about the study, please contact the project manager Julia Feast at BAAF.

A network called the UK Hong Kong (Adult) Adoptees Network has also been established for people adopted from Hong Kong and meets in different locations in the country to try and give everyone the opportunity to attend. These are open to anyone (adult) adopted from Hong Kong – see the Hong Kong Adoptees Network website for further information.

Related publications


For further information please contact Julia Feast at CoramBAAF -