Skip to main content

Mind the gap: Attending to the transmission gap and its implications for families with adopted children

25 July 2011


Domestic and international adoptions in the United States are on the rise (Roberson, 2006). Unfortunately, some recent high-profile adoption disruptions (e.g., the case of Artem Saveliev) have highlighted the lack of support given to many families with regard to forming a relationship with their adopted child. In fact, difficulty in forming an attachment relationship is the primary reason cited for adoption disruption (Berry & Barth, 1991; Coakley & Berrick, 2008; Schmidt, Rosenthal, & Bombeck, 1988).

Despite the relatively high (i.e., 8-15%) rate of disruptions, there is a lack of research focusing on how adoptive parents can form a secure attachment relationship with their children (Barth, Berry, Yoshikami, Goodfield, & Carson, 1988; Coakley & Berrick, 2008; Festinger, 1990; Stolley, 1993). There is also a lack of information pertaining to how attachment styles are transmitted across generations; this lack of information has been deemed the transmission gap by researchers. This paper focuses on what is known about the transmission gap as it applies to cases of domestic and international adoption, with a specific focus on how families who adopt children may form a strong attachment relationship so as to prevent disruption of the adoption. Literature was selected based on the following search terms: adopt*, attach*, and transmission gap. This review was restricted to English-language literature published after 1969. Available literature relevant to attachment formation and therapeutic interventions is also reviewed, and recommendations for mental health professionals and parents are discussed.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
Main File
19 Mar 2020
638 kB