BACKGROUND: Following initial adversities, most internationally adopted children arrive with significant growth delays. Post-placement recovery has been widely documented, but research about risk or protective factors is still limited. Even less is known about the relationship between growth recovery and the quality of the family environment. METHODS: 28 children in 26 adoptive families were involved in this longitudinal study. A comprehensive evaluation (including anthropometry, cognitive assessment [using the Leiter International Performance Scale-Revised], and completion by both parents of the Parenting Stress Index - Short Form) was done at arrival of the child, and 1 year later. RESULTS: Results evidenced that on arrival nearly half of children had growth measurements in the normal range. All the children showed a significant recovery in height and weight at 6 and 12 months post-placement. Initial and follow up growth measurements correlated strongly. Growth recovery was related to the age of the child at adoption, the proportion of time the child had resided in institutional care, as well as parenting stress. Results suggested that the higher the parenting stress experienced the less improvements occurred in children: for mothers for height and weight, for fathers for all the growth indicators. CONCLUSIONS: Results suggested the critical importance of family factor in influencing children's growth recovery.