Adoption: Struggles an Adopted Child can face
Even before we got married, my husband and I discussed the amount of kids we each wanted to have. If I recall correctly, we were out to dinner and the topic came up – mind you it was probably our third date. So I guess at that point we were discussing the idea of kids in a theoretical sense or in a general sense of how we each saw ourselves in the future. We both agreed that at the count of three we would blurt out our ideal number of kids we wanted to have. “One… two… three…” “Three!” We both saw ourselves having three kids in the future, and we still do today.
I’m not sure when that time will come, but I do know I want to get through graduate school and do some traveling beforehand! Along with the general discussion of how many kids, today we have conversations about the “what-ifs.” “What if we can’t get pregnant?” We try not to get carried away with our fears or concerns, but we did discuss adoption as an option in our future. But even with adoption just being a thought in our minds, it’s important to review all the aspects of adoption: the process, the good, the bad, the difficulties, the struggle as parents, the struggle as an adopted child.
There can be short-term and long-term issues for adopted children such as struggling with their self-esteem and identity, feelings of guilt, or feelings of rejection. As an adopted child, it might be difficult to “identify” who you are: Where do your ancestors come from? What is your family medical history? Adopted children and young adults might also struggle with their self-esteem – focusing on the idea that they are different from their family members in a sense, and that can make them different than their friends or their friends’ families. It could be tough to feel like you are so different that you think no one is able to relate to you. Other thoughts that can affect an adopted child’s self-esteem and identity struggle is wondering where their biological family might be or thinking that their biological family rejected them.
Adopted children can struggle with feeling guilty for wanting to know about their birth parents. They might think they will hurt their adoptive parents’ feelings if they express curiosity. Many adopted children want to meet their biological parents, and that would probably be a tough or uncomfortable conversation to have with an adoptive parent.
It was interesting what I came across in my research; I would have thought that adopted children might be at a higher risk for developing mental health issues due to the issues mentioned above, compared to non-adopted children. In a research article entitled Behavior Problems and Mental Health Contacts in Adopted, Foster, and Nonadopted Children, the findings noted: “Additional ad hoc analyses revealed that, when we removed a small number of influential cases from the adoptee and foster groups, the significant differences in mental health contact for adopted children disappeared.” Their findings suggest that research can be reflected a certain way— for instance the claim that adopted children tend to often require a mental health contact—because of a few persuasive examples; which would not be truly reflective of the overall group of adopted children. The results continue: “This finding supports our earlier suggestion that a small and particularly troubled group of adopted children may be ending up in clinical populations, thus creating the over-representation of adopted children in clinical samples.”
Additionally, there doesn’t seem to be significant numbers for adopted children with behavioral problems in comparison to non-adopted children. The article stated, “most adopted children in our sample (88 %) have behavior problem scale scores similar to those of nonadopted children.” I think something that could come into play here is a misguided assumption. One can look at a child who was adopted, and say that there are some behavioral issues that the child is exhibiting, and then might associate those issues with the fact that the child was adopted. But aren’t there so many other factors that could also affect a child’s behavior? Whether the child was adopted or was not adopted, a child can act out for all different reasons: family issues such as divorce, puberty, maybe one of the parents isn’t the best role model, or maybe the parents are being too critical or too tough. There are many reasons why any child would act out, and it shouldn’t automatically be assumed that the reason would be because a child was adopted.
Overall, I think adoption is a wonderful thing, and these “possible” issues shouldn’t be focused on as if they are bound to happen. I’m sure the adoption process is scary and overwhelming, and it is important to be aware of all these possibilities beforehand, so that as an adoptive parent, one can try their best to understand the adopted child throughout the different stages of his or her life. The hope is that an adopted child gets an opportunity at an amazing life, a full education, and a bright future. The hope is that finally, after many hours waiting anxiously, the adoptive parents can welcome their newest member into their home to love and care for for years to come. I hope that I have supplied you with enough information, but also debunked some rumor statistics, so that you can truly recognize the many aspects of adoption.
“Behavior Problems and Mental Health Contacts in Adopted, Foster, and Nonadopted Children”
Ann E. Brand and Paul M. Brinich
J. Child Psychol. Psychiat. Vol. 40, No. 8, pp. 1221–1229, 1999
Cambridge University Press
‘ 1999 Association for Child Psychology and Psychiatry