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Men Adopt Twice as Often as Women

Adoption Report From CDC: 2.3% of U.S. Men, 1.1% of Women Adopt Children
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WebMD Health News

Aug. 7, 2008 -- Men are twice as likely as women to adopt a child, the CDC's latest adoption figures show.

There are a number of surprises in the CDC data, which come from 2002-2003 interviews with a nationally representative sample of 12,571 U.S. residents aged 15 to 44.

It's the first time the CDC collected adoption data from men. Those data yield the study's most surprising finding: 2.3% of American men -- but only 1.1% of women -- have ever adopted a child. It punctures an American myth, says study author Jo Jones, PhD, a statistician for the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.

"Folklore tells us it is the childless couples, or the women who want more children in the house, who seek adoption," Jones tells WebMD. "This tells us there is another face of adoption. It is more complex than we had thought."

Why might men adopt more often than women? Jones points to divorce arrangements. Children of divorced parents usually live with their mothers. When men and women remarry, men are more likely than women to adopt children that come into the household.

Another point of view comes from Kim M. Hober, LMSW, an obstetric social worker at New York's University of Rochester Medical Center. For 20 years, Hober has worked with women who place children for adoption.

"We've seen an increase in same-sex couples adopting, and this is a trend all over the country," Hober tells WebMD. "If you think about same-sex couples, gay men who want children really have to adopt, but gay women can have their own children. I don't see as many gay female couples adopting as gay male couples."

That's certainly part of the story, Jones agrees.

The proportion of never-married men and women who adopt is high. About 100,000 never-married women and 73,000 never-married men had adopted children by 2002," she says. "It is not just white married couples who are adopting children."

Indeed, black Americans are proportionately more likely to adopt than are white Americans.

But the male/female adoption disparity is complex. Despite cultural trends toward adoption by gay men, men who have never been married are far less likely to have adopted a child than are currently or formerly married men.

And here's another interesting statistic: Men who adopt are more likely to have fathered a child than men who do not adopt. For the other sex, it's the other way around: Women who have never had a child are more likely to adopt than are those who have given birth.

Ideal Adoption, Real Adoption

The CDC survey asked women seeking to adopt what they wanted in a child. The preferred child is younger than 2 years old, free of disabilities, and is an only child. Women would prefer to adopt a girl rather than a boy.

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