Should You Combine Bio Kids & Adopted Kids in Same Family

Dawn Davenport


When most people think of an adoptive family, they usually think of families where all the children are adopted. In fact, however, many families in the US have both adopted and biological kids. I suspect these families are on the rise. Should you combine bio kids and adopted kids in the same family?

The National Survey of Family Growth found that “an equal percentages of women who have and who have not had a birth have adopted children” and that “four times as many men who have fathered children have adopted children compared with women who have given birth.” While the language is a bit convoluted as you would expect from government bureaucracy, suffice it to say, that is a lot of families that have combined bio and adopted kids.

Reasons Families Combine Adopted and Non-Adopted Kids

I’ve seen no research on why families have both adopted and biological kids, but from what we see in our audience and online community, the following reasons are the most common:

  • unexplained secondary infertility,
  • wanting to have children in a second marriage at an older age, and
  • the desire to adopt even though they have not experienced infertility.
  • A little-discussed reason, but one that is growing, is families going back into fertility treatment after adopting, and many of them are successful.

Do Parents Favor Their Bio Kids Over Adopted Kids

Scientists have speculated that evolution would logically predict that parents would favor their biologically related children over their adopted kids. This theory, known as the Kin Selection Theory, further predicts that parents should also have less favorable perceptions of the intellect, personality, and other behavioral traits of their adopted kids, compared with their biological children.


Should families combine biological and adopted children

In general, the study found that that parents did not favor their biological children over their adopted children.


Recent research sheds light on this evolution theory of how parents of both adopted and biological kids view their children. Researchers studied 135 virtual twin pairs—similar aged unrelated siblings raised together. (Check out our resources on Virtual Twins, also known as Artificial Twins.) Of the virtual twin pairs, 41 were adopted/biological pairs and 94 were adopted/adopted pairs. The average age of the children in this study was 6 years.

The children’s IQ was tested and the parents were asked to fill out an Adjective Checklist and a Child Behavior Checklist for both children in the virtual twin pairs. Biological children scored higher on IQ tests than did adopted children, which is consistent with prior research.

In general, the study found that that parents did not favor their biological children over their adopted children. 

“Although parents rated their adoptive children higher in negative traits and behaviors like arrogance and stealing, they scored both adopted and biological children similarly when it came to positive traits like conscientiousness and persistence.”

Keep in mind that the number of adopted/biological virtual twin pairs was small and the children studied were young, but the findings are still interesting.

Creating a Family Resources on Favoritism in Parenting:

Resources to Help Blended Families

Creating a Family, the national adoption & foster care education and support organization, has many additional resources to help families that have both biological and adopted kids. Check out a few of these:

Do you have both kids by birth and by adoption? What are your thoughts – do you think you favor your bio or your adopted kids?

Originally published in 2015; Updated in 2019
Image credit: emifaulk, Gerry Balding

22/04/2019 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 42 Comments

42 Responses to Should You Combine Bio Kids & Adopted Kids in Same Family

  1. Avatar Gail Heaton says:

    I have been following this discussion with great interest and compassion for everyone who has suffered when blending bio, foster, and adopted kids doesn’t come easy. I know this struggle well, as an adoptive mom and bio mom. If it is allowed here, I’d like to offer my organization Suddenly Siblings ( as a resource for these kinds of delicate situations. We have child workbooks and a parent book, a Facebook Page (Suddenly Siblings) and a soon-to-be FB group just for this issue. We hope to also create a FB group for the siblings, too! I am here if anyone wants to learn more.

  2. Avatar Carmen says:

    Hello everyone,
    I have one bio child and would love to foster-adopt an older child between the ages of 7-14 once my son becomes about those same ages. He is currently only two years old and I am a long way off from adopting a child.
    I am the fourth of five children myself and grew up in an abusive home so I know what it is like to come from a rough childhood. I also had a traumatic birth with my son, and I do not biologically want any more children. I have sought counseling and help and coped with my childhood, I want to help someone else escape and have open arms to all kinds of kids from ADHD, learning disabilities, and LGBTQIA+ kids.
    I want my son to know that he is mine to love while at the same time when I do adopt that child to also know they are mine to love. I want to be a good mom to both. This would be a single parent adoption if that is important.
    So my questions are:
    1. Does anyone have any advice as an adopted child or a bio child for me?
    2. Do you think I shouldn’t adopt and keep my son as an only child or do you think it would be wise to foster-adopt?
    3. Applying to both above, what do you wish your parents did differently?
    Thank you all for your answers.
    , Carmen

  3. Avatar G says:

    I am adopted from another country. I was around 2 years old. When i was 5 my “parents” finally had the biological child they had tried for so long to have before they settled for me. Not only was that their biological child , it was a boy.of the same ethnicity as them. And so i was downgraded from beloved child to house guest and burden. I absoutley panicked. Everytime i had to watch my parents interact with him the way they never did with me was like a kick in the stomach and the heart. Tried several times to find out about my biological mother but was refused any information. Nobody deserves to grow up like that. Not belonging, not feeling the love of their parents. Im still trying to heal and find peace. Cildren are not toys to be collected. Dont adopt if you are going to have biological children

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      G – I’m am so sorry for the painful childhood you experienced, feeling unwanted and second choice. NO child deserves that.

      Creating a Family is committed to educating parents about issues like this so that they can be prepared and ready for their kids. The concerns and needs of both biological and adopted children in one family require attention, persistence, and intentionality.

  4. Avatar Alice says:

    I am the middle of three kids. I was ten when our family adopted a little boy from Russia. Because it was a 4-year-long process to adopt and had consumed much of my mom’s attention, I’d spent lots of time fantasizing about the ways I’d give my new brother the perfect life and be the best big sister to him!

    Once he actually came, I had to cope with having a brother with a severe attachment disorder, who stole from us, was violent and extremely manipulative. I’d never encountered manipulative behavior before that; it was confounding to me. Over the course of a year, my family became totally fractured, each of us becoming increasingly withdrawn and hostile toward one another. My parents were entirely consumed with trying to help but also put out the daily fires caused by my new brother. My 13-year-old sister basically detached from the family, my little brother began acting out (even drinking glue at one point in a desperate attempt to get attention), and I spent the year alternating between anger, confusion, guilt, and unrealistic hope that I could forge a normal sibiling bond with my new brother.

    My parents ended up giving this little boy to a different family after a year. That came with its own world of sorrow, confusion, and guilt, at least for me. And yet it probably saved our family. The point is: that adoption brought so much chaos and trauma to my family. I’m 31, and I can definitely say it had lasting effects on both me and my siblings. My parents later told me that the psychiatrist they’d sent my adopted brother to at one point basically told them they had to choose between maintaining health and happiness in the home for their biological kids or having this child in the home. A tragic situation all around.

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:


      Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’m sorry that there was so much pain associated with both the adoption and the dissolution of your brother’s adoption. It is indeed tragic. I hope you all have been able to find a measure of healing.

  5. Avatar P says:

    I wonder if it’s harder for adopted children when parents have a biological child after adoption than it is for adopted children who are adopted after the parents already had a biological child?

    One would think that an adopted child might feel more displaced if a biological child came later.

    Also, do people who were adopted as children experience parenting adopted children differently from their partner who wasn’t adopted?

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      These are both excellent questions for our online community to field! In that group, we have a wide variety of adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents who likely have had experience with the issues represented in your questions.

      I will post your first question, about adopted children coming to a family first, before biological children, in the group from “anonymous” this week. You can find the group and follow along here:

      Thanks so much for asking and giving us something to think about!

  6. Avatar aco92 says:

    I was wondering, what do the adopted/ biological child think of eachother? Is it possible to have them get along perfectly well even with the knowledge on is directly related and the other one isn’t? Also, what are some hints to ensure they grow up to get along and love eachother the same way me as a parent would love both of them?

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      Certainly, every family is so unique and different that it’s hard to give answers that would “ensure” anything. And if they are behaving like “related” siblings, then you can be sure they WON’T get along perfectly well. Not always getting along perfectly is kind of the hallmark of “real” siblings, right? But in all seriousness, we do have some excellent resources for blending bio and adopted/foster children in a family that might help you find some practical ways to parent them realistically:

      Additionally, our online support group is full of parents who are doing the everyday hard work of parenting kids by birth, adoption and/or foster care. They are a wealth of experience! Come check us out:

  7. Avatar Karen says:

    I am adopted. I was an only child. My adoptive parents did not understand who I was until I was an adult. My adoptive family beyond mom and dad felt I should have disappeared when I graduated college. I met my birth mother. I have 5 half brothers and 2 half sisters, only one of those I can truly call my sister. We had to work at really hard at the relationship. I am the godmother to one of her son’s. She and her husband are the godparents to my son and daughter.

    I married later in life. Fertility was a big “F”. We adopted my wonderful, intelligent son. We stayed in contact with his biological family. I am thankful we did. 6 weeks after my son was in our custody, I was pregnant with my daughter. My kids are 13 months apart. Each is different. My son has engineering qualities like my father and my daughter should have been born so she could have been apart of Woodstock. We would have adopted a second child if I did not have my daughter. It sucks being an only child.

    Both my parents and husbands parents are deceased. My son’s biological great grandmother (60’s) is the only grandparent we have. She is like an older sister to me.

    I LOVE BOTH CHILDREN EQUALLY AND TREAT EACH ONE ACCORDING TO WHO THEY ARE. I nurture those traits that make them who they are. This is what most adoptive parents and families fail at. They want the adopted child to be what they want. They forget the child has a different gene pool other than their own. This is why adopted children like me feel the way we do.

    The other issue that exists is the bigotry of people who feel adoptees are losers and unloved. My sister-in-law didn’t want my husband to marry me because I was adopted. A coworker and I were speaking of infertility and adoption. Her words to me “You don’t know where that child has been.” She soon found out I was adopted. AWKWARD FOR HER! Here is the realty adoptees are human beings, we did not come from the pound, we have feelings just like everyone else. Unlike a human born to natural parents, adoptees struggle because we are treated differently because of bigotry and unrecognized genetics.

    I grew up in an era where my records are still sealed. I had to beg the agency for “Identifying Information” MY HERITAGE, ETHNIC BACKGROUND. I was not allowed to have any family medical history. It just so happened that my birth mother and biological grandmother had breast cancer.

    So when doing studies on adoptees. Please be very careful how you represent us. We are not lab rats and are all ready fighting bigotry for really stupid reasons.

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      Karen, thanks for sharing your story. We wholeheartedly agree – both adoptees and adoptive parents should be treated for the individuals that they are, unique and special in their own rights. Just as it is vital for parenting your children – by birth or by adoption – according to their wiring and their needs, it’s important not to brush a wide-sweeping brushstroke about “most adoptive parents” failings.

      That is where WE as an org come in – we believe knowledge is power and by talking openly about these issues, we bring education and resources to adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents to have many tools available to them to meet the needs of the children they are raising. We face the “myths” about adoption and adoptees and offer practical tools and support to help parents raise their kids with healthy, strong self-identity. We are so glad you are here learning along with us!

  8. Avatar Anon1 says:

    I am the oldest biological child. My mom adopted 4 small children and does not have any time to spend with my children, her grandchildren. I see her for a few hours every 2-3 months. She basically created another new family for herself and now talks to me like I’m her friend, comparing kids, instead of her daughter. It’s hard. I hate it. Any help on how to manage besides “it is what it is”? I use that all the time.

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      Anon1, I’m sorry. That sounds very painful. And personally, I’m taking it as a cautionary tale for my own family as our dynamic could easily be quite similar.

      As to advice on how to manage it, I think I would try to have a sit-down, face-to-face. Maybe invite your mom out for coffee, tea or ice cream? I’d likely start out the conversation by empathizing with how hard it is/must be to parent small children and feel spread so thin. Establish some similarities and connect with her over that. Then share that while you are very empathetic (after all you are doing it as well), you still find yourself needing your mom as an adult and you would like to work on that together. Maybe mention that you’d like to see your children develop a grandparent relationship with her for all the benefits that grandmothers (vs. aunts or parents or friends) bring to a child’s life. If you have/had a good relationship with your own grandmother, point to that as an example.

      Keep in mind, she might be unaware of your desire for a more mother/daughter relationship. She might have a different experience with what that looks like. Bringing it to light and expressing your desire for more than you are both getting right now will take work and patience and gentleness.

      It undoubtedly can be sticky and potentially prickly. It might take a few tries and some time for both of you to think and process. But it sounds as if you really do care and want to be part of effecting change for your dynamic. “It is what it is” is a good coping-in-the-moment tool but it doesn’t bring about change that would meet BOTH of your needs and can lead to resentment or division in your relationship if you don’t address it.

      • Avatar Anon1 says:

        Yes please keep it in mind. It’s been really hard. Everytime I talk to her or see her I get upset because I want her to be more present in our lives. And now I really just feel like pushing her away instead of working things out.
        She is now staying at home with those kids when she would not keep our children to save us daycare cost and spend time with them. Taking them on vacation when she has not offered to take us on vacation. For Christmas she didn’t have gifts for my children and gave them older kids gifts instead because they were crying and didn’t have gifts to open. While the adopted children had tons of unwrapped gifts in her room. She is not making us feel important. And like I said before we never see her.
        Thank you for the advice. She has always told me that she had her own life and not to expect her to do things for us. I think the problem is we have different ideas of what our relationship should look like. Her mother was not very present in her life either. Thankfully I have a wonderful mother in law that my children are very close to.

        • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

          I’d love it if you’d consider joining our online support group – – and talk with other adoptive parents there. You might get the support and encouragement you need from those who’ve got some similar dynamics in their own families. Best to you, regardless!

  9. Avatar anon2 says:

    This is to reach out to Anon who posted above. Although it was 4 years ago, I hope you see this comment. I feel exactly how you feel. ((Hugs)) It is an awful feeling. I too have had therapy and it helped for a while. My therapist said “it is what it is” and it helped for a while to repeat this. I have been begging God to change my heart towards my adopted child.

    I also jump back and forth between wishing I had only all adopted children or all bio children so I would have never known the difference I now know feel between them.

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      Thank you so much, anon2, for reaching out this way and sharing your experience and encouragement. Even if the original Anon never sees this, I’m certain your kind words and hope extended will resonate with someone reading now. It’s always helpful to know you aren’t alone in this journey!

  10. Avatar Jeiel says:

    Good day! I am a student and i am planning to do a research/thesis about HOW PARENTS TREAT THEIR BIOLOGICAL AND ADOPTED CHILD. This includes the communication strategies that parents do in order to reach out to their biological child especially to their adopted child. Do you have any suggestions WHY do i have to do a research paper about this topic? I hope you can help me. Thank you and God bless!

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      jeiel, we have lots of resources on this topic at Adoption A-Z Resource Guide ( ) (under combining kids). Hope this helps.

    • Avatar kathy Gerard says:

      I am the youngest biological child. My two older siblings were adopted. I was totally neglected due to overcompensation of their of adoption. I have deep anger and resentment from this. When I try to talk about it with my parents they remind of how they were abandoned. I have no relationship with my siblings due to this.

      • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

        I’m so sorry, Kathy. That sounds very painful and damaging. But it’s good to hear a perspective like this one, even if it’s hard to hear. As a parent to both bio and adopted kids, I find myself walking a line of awareness in my attentions and my care that I never noticed before. It’s important to me that I parent each kid as they need me to do, and not get caught in overcompensating or trying to “make up” the past. I try to be mindful of them nurturing relationship with each other as well, as that is so important to our family culture.

      • Avatar Kelly says:


        I can totally relate. I found your post specifically looking to see if there are others out there in this position. In my family, the two oldest, which I am one of, are the bio children, and the two youngest are adopted. Neglect is an understatement. If myself and my bio sibling ceased to exist tomorrow, I doubt our parents would even notice, or care. I share your anger, resentment, and pain. It’s a horrible situation.

        • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

          I’m sorry, Kelly, that you feel so invisible. I agree, it’s horrible. I hope you find a path to peace and freedom from that anger and pain. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    • Avatar Don says:

      I was adopted at birth. had a great childhood – until my parents had their own child – something they had been told they could never do. I was immediately relegated to the role of second class child. My parents loved me – but not the way they LOVED my sister. The differences were pronounced – the more so when I had a child. My parents loved their grandchild – until my sister had a child. They have loved and doted on my sister’s children whilst virtually ignoring mine. The problem is mostly with my Mom, but Dad does nothing to change things. At 50 years old I am bitter and have had self-esteem issues for 40+ years.

      • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:


        Thank you for reading and sharing your story. I’m so sorry that was your experience – it sounds so unfair and painful. I’m a mom to both adopted and bio kids and I find myself angry and hurt on your behalf. No child deserves that.

        Have you considered seeking help from an adoption-informed therapist? We have tools to find one that can walk with you through the hard self-esteem issues. Maybe something here would be of help to you: Click on the + sign next to “How To Find An Adoption Therapist” for some things to support your search.

        Again, thanks for reading here and sharing your story. Best wishes!

  11. Avatar Aaron says:

    We have one of each. I feel the same about both – they are both our children. If anything, I think that adopting allowed us to experience parenting in a fresh and exciting new light. Whereas, I hear parents having their second biological kind of shrugging it off as old business.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      I am a mom of 4 kids by birth and adoption, and I have always felt very lucky to have experienced both birth and adoption.

  12. Avatar Hanna says:

    I have two bio and two adopted. Our reason for adopting is simply that we felt passionately called to adopt. I love all four dearly, they are each my favorites at times, and I want to put each of them back on the shelf at times. Our adopted son with FASD is by far the hardest to love and sadly the what if thought does cross my mind at times but then I remember how blessed we are to be chosen to raise and provide for these beautiful human beings. Life is not meant to be easy and certainly raising kids, whether adopted or biological, is by no means easy. They are my kids just the same. When faced with challenging behavior I do think it would be easier if we only had two or three. I consider being a mother an honor (as well as my cross to bare). Love, frustration, immense pride, anger, exaustion….they are all part of the process of parenting whether adopted or biological.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Oh Hanna, I was smiling and applauding with appreciation as I read your comment. As the mom of 4 by birth and adoption, I wholeheartedly agree with the following: [ I love all four dearly, they are each my favorites at times, and I want to put each of them back on the shelf at times. ]

  13. Avatar Kristie Radford says:

    We adopted our first two as newborns and later became pregnant with our third. I have learned, from my experience, that true love really has nothing to do with DNA. I’d give my life in a heartbeat for any of them. Can’t love them more than that!

  14. Avatar Sara says:

    Were the adopted children international, from foster care or domestic. It can make a huge difference in both behaviors and their perception.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Sara, how do you think the type of adoption might affect the parent’s behavior or perception?

      • Avatar Sara says:

        Not the parent’s behaviors so much as the kids. Are they coming from understaffed orphanages where they were competing for limited attention and resources? Are they coming out of the foster system, witnessing abuse and/or being neglected in their family of origin then having been bounced from family to family and feeling rejected at every turn? And then there’s the training the parents receive ‘Your child has been traumatized’, ‘your child can (implied to mean *will*) have difficult, maladapted behavior as response to their environment’. It’s like the parents are set up to *expect* adopted children to be different (more difficult) then bio children. Even domestic infant adoption can be potentially fraught if the primal wound theory is subscribed to. Tell a parent their child is likely to be damaged and they will tend towards interpreting any behavior as maladaptive.

  15. Avatar Kristie Radford says:

    Done both. No difference. Period.

  16. Avatar anon says:

    I do favor my bio child over adoptive, and the research you cited does show some divergence in how parents perceive their adoptive children. My adoptive child is simply harder to parent. If I had to do it again, I’m not sure I’d adopt.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      anon, that’s a hard place to be. If you haven’t sought family therapy, please give it a try.

      • Avatar anon says:

        I’ve sought therapy on several occasions, but the hard truth is that my bio kid is my favorite, and I don’t know what amount of therapy will change what my heart feels. I often wonder if the contrast with how I feel about my kids wouldn’t be so stark if I gave birth to or adopted them both. Thanks for posting this article, I think it’s a very important topic, although I think I’m not in much company based on the Facebook comments.

        • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

          anon, I agree that it’s an important topic. I sincerely hope, however, that you are not correct that there is nothing you can to go change how you feel. We humans can and do change. Have you reached out to your adoption agency to seek help?

    • Avatar Don says:

      Thank you for your honesty. I wish my adoptive parents had not adopted me – or at least not had a natural child later.

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