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Rachel H. Farr

Research Interests:
child development
family functioning
LGBTQ+ parent families
adoption and birth family experiences
mixed methods
life course

**Please note: I will be not be considering new PhD students for Fall 2024 (applying in Fall 2023).**

Undergraduates interested in working in the FAD Lab can fill out an application (for PSY 394 credit) at any time -- see link to the left. Interviews are invited mid-semester in the Spring for the following academic year. Undergraduates interested in pursuing an honors thesis (PSY 495 / 496) with the FAD Lab in their senior year should discuss the possibility with me no later than 2nd semester of their junior year.

Are you looking for me to write you a letter of recommendation or provide a reference for you? Please complete the form found on the menu to the left!


In directing the FAD Lab (Families, Adoption, and Diversity) here at UK as part of the Developmental Psychology area, I conduct mixed method (i.e., qualitative and quantitative) research related to diverse family systems and issues of adoption through the lenses of Developmental and Community Psychology, with particular interest in child development, parenting, family functioning, and intersectionality of identities. I primarily study adoptive families and families headed by LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) parents. I'm also interested in how issues of race (e.g., transracial adoption), gender, and birth family contact are relevant in adoptive families. Given the intersections of this area of research with public policy, practice, and law, it is exciting that some of our findings have been influential in media circles, public debates, and legal and policy domains.

  • See some of the publications, media mentions, and amicus briefs citations via the tabs on the left for more information! Consider watching these brief videos about my work in adoption (with PDF) and LGBTQ+ families for overviews!

We have several key research projects currently ongoing, as well as others not listed here! See some of our publications from these and other projects on tab on left. To read more about the studies we're conducting in the FAD Lab, visit our CURRENT PROJECT website.

1. The Contemporary Adoptive Families Study (CAFS): For over 15 years, I have been conducting a longitudinal study of adoptive families headed by lesbian, gay, and heterosexual parents in the U.S. We have data collected from two time points: when children were preschoolers, as well as when they were in middle childhood (elementary school-age). We are now following up with families to collect data for a third wave, as children are now in adolescence! (*Funded by the William T. Grant Foundation, the APF Placek Grant, and the UCLA Williams Institute)

2. Queer Parent and Adolescent Lives (Q-PAL): Building from qualitative data collected in SELFY (see next), Q-PAL is a survey-based project to learn more about the experiences of racially, socioeconomically, and geographically diverse adolescents (12-18 years old) with at least one LGBTQ+ parent and LGBTQ+ parents with at least one adolescent child in the U.S. (*Funded by the William T. Grant Foundation and the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues)

3. Stories & Experiences of LGBTQ+ Families from Youth (SELFY): Early in 2020, we finished collecting interview data from racially and socioeconomically diverse adolescents (especially those who live in the South, Midwest, and Mountain West of the U.S.) with LGBTQ+ parents about their intersectional experiences of identity (e.g., race, class, adoption, parents’ sexual orientation) and discrimination. Through thematic and content analyses, we are exploring feelings about relationships with family and friends, as well as positive identity development, coping behaviors, and perceptions of community and support resources. (*Funded by the William T. Grant Foundation)

4. The Experiences of Queer Parents with Infants in the NICU (NICQu): With colleagues in Social Work (Dr. Aubrey Jones), Fine Arts (Dr. Olivia Yinger), Medicine (Dr. Keisa Fallin-Bennett), we are exploring the experiences of LGBTQ+ parents who have had an infant in the NICU through a mixed method, community-based action research (CBAR) approach. (*Funded by UK's Center for Health Equity Transformation and Center for Clinical and Translational Science)

5. The Birth Family Project: We are interested in the experiences and well-being of birth family members connected to adoptive families (who may or may not have current contact with other another). As research has often focused on the perspectives of individuals who are adopted and their adoptive parents, it is so important to hear the stories of birth parents and birth relatives! We finished data collection (interviews and surveys) and are now working on analyses and manuscript writing based on this project. (*Funded by the Family Process Institute)

6. Children's Attitudes about Diversity (CAD) Project: In collaboration with Dr. Christia Brown (Psychology, UK) and Dr. Jazmin Brown-Iannuzzi (Psychology, UVA), we explored elementary school-age children’s attitudes about diverse families, such as those formed through adoption, with same-gender parents, and who are multiracial. We have two rounds of data collection for which we are conducting analyses and writing up reports for publication.

  • BS, Cornell University (Animal Science, Education)
  • MAT, Cornell University (Education)
  • PhD, University of Virginia (Psychology)
  • Postdoctoral Scholar, University of Massachusetts Amherst (Rudd Adoption Research Program)

Common undergrad and graduate courses I teach (with a link to representative syllabi):

  • PSY 323: Developmental Psychology (lifespan)
  • PSY 563 and PSY 778: Diversity among Contemporary American Families
  • PSY 625: Developmental Psychology Proseminar
  • PSY 778: LGBTQ+ Psychology: A Lifespan Perspective  
Selected Publications:

See tab on left for Publications.