Adoption is a process, permitted by law in most countries, whereby one or more persons voluntarily enter into a family relationship with the person adopted. Historically, adoption served purposes different from contemporary rules and usually involved adults. In ancient Rome, for instance, adoption served to strengthen certain families controlled by the paterfamilias—the eldest male. In some cultures, adoption guaranteed continuity in the male line for political, religious, or economic reasons.

The adoption of children dates from the nineteenth century, particularly in English common law countries outside Great Britain (where the legislature authorized it in 1926). In Europe, child adoption often occurred later. For example, the French Civil Code of 1804 permitted only adult adoption. In response to the large number of orphaned children and “illegitimate” births ...

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