British Chinese Adoption Study

Adversity, adoption and afterwards book coverThe British Chinese Adoption Study is a long-term follow up of a group of 100 Chinese girls placed in orphanage care in Hong Kong and adopted into the UK in the 1960s and early 1970s. This study builds on a feasibility study and both were funded by the Nuffield Foundation and carried out by BAAF. 

A book titled 'Adversity, Adoption and Afterwards: a mid-life follow-up of women adopted from Hong Kong' gives a full account of the research. The findings 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.

The study explores the women's experiences across a range of areas including relationships, family formation, education, employment and physical and mental health.  The research team 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 a large U.K. sample of non-orphanage women to explore the possible links between early childhood experiences and adult outcomes.  

The researchers

Julia Feast receives her OBE from Her MajestyBAAF carried 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 were  based at BAAF. The BAAF team was 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.  Professor Alan Rushton was awarded an OBE for  services to adoption and children in June 2014 Queen’s birthday honours.  Dr John Simmonds was awarded an OBE for services to children and families in the 2014 Queen’s New Year Honours list. Margaret Grant was awarded a doctorate in July 2016 based on how this sample of women appraised their adoptions. 

Key findings

  • Overall, the outcomes for these ex-orphanage, internationally adopted women were found to be positive with good levels of mental and physical health, educational achievement, family life and relationships with adoptive family members.
  • 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. 
  • There was no evidence of increased risk for major physical health problems; using the same comparison groups as above.
  • Those with less satisfactory adoptions had poorer outcomes.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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 both children and adults 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 CoramBAAF.

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.

Further analysis 

Alan Rushton and Margaret Grant were subsequently awarded a grant from the Sir Halley Stewart Trust to analyse all  adult life events data on this group of women (partnerships, children, relationships with adoptive family, work/education etc). This allowed us to explore the contribution of orphanage care, adoptive family life and adult life events and experiences to outcome at about 50. Academic and practice and policy papers are in preparation. 

At the International Conference for Adoption Research in New Zealand, Margaret Grant gave a 15 minute presentation about BCAS and subsequent developments and  also presented a literature review on midlife studies with internationally adopted adults (a review of 11 studies including BCAS). The paper is published in  the Scientific World Journal, which is open access so anyone can access it for free. 

Related publications

  • The British Chinese Adoption Study : BAAF's full response regarding The Observer's article (3rd February 2013). Read the full statement here.
  • 'Assessing Community Connectedness and Self-Regard in a Mid-Life Follow-up of British Chinese Adoptions', Adoption and Fostering, October 2012 
  • 'The British Chinese Adoption Study: planning a study of lifecourse and outcomes', European Journal of Social Work, February 2012
  • Feast J., Grant M.,  Rushton A.  &  Simmonds J. (2013) Adversity, adoption and afterwards: A mid-life follow-up study of women adopted from Hong Kong. London: British Association for Adoption and Fostering. ISBN 978 1 907585 64 7 
  • Rushton A., Grant M., Feast J. and Simmonds J. (2013) The British Chinese Adoption Study: orphanage care, adoption and mid-life outcomes. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54,11, 1215-1222. ISSN 0021-9630.
  • Rushton A. (2014) Early years adversity, adoption and adulthood: conceptualizing long term outcomes. Adoption & Fostering, 36, 4, 374- 385. ISSN 03085759• Rushton A. (2015) Die Auswirkungen von Adoption am Beispiel der ‘British Chinese Adoption Study’. Praxis der Kinderpsychology und Kinderpsychiatrie. 64,10, 721 – 732.  
  • Grant M., Rushton, A, & Simmonds J. (2016) Is Early Experience Destiny? Review of research on long-term outcomes following International Adoption with Special Reference to the British Chinese Adoption Study. The Scientific World Journal, 20, 16 pages. 


For further information please contact Julia Feast at CoramBAAF -