Being adopted approximately doubles the odds of an adolescent being diagnosed with a behavior or emotional problem. Yes, the vast majority of adopted people grow up to be fully functioning, well adjusted individuals, but a 2008 study at the University of Minnesota has found that a small minority of those kids--about 14 percent--are diagnosed with a behavioral disorder or have contact with a mental health professional as adolescents--roughly twice the odds that the non-adopted face.
This is consistent with what previous adoption research has found for many years. Yet for just as many years, that research was dismissed cavalierly as a result of adoptive parents' higher income and education levels, thus people more likely to seek professional help for a troubled, trouble-making child. But that assumption is flawed, says the lead researcher, Margaret Keyes, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota Center for Twin and Family Research.
The researchers assessed 514 internationally adopted adolescents and 178 domestically adopted adolescents (aged 11 to 21) and compared them with 540 non-adopted kids of the same age. Children who had been adopted scored higher than non-adoptees on continuous measures of behavioral and emotional problems, the team found. Adoptees were about twice as likely to have had contact with a mental health professional and of having a disruptive behavior disorder, according to the study.
Yes, most adoptees are doing well. Yes, most do not fall into this troubled group. But some do, at a higher incidence than the non-adopted. The causes are unclear--Keyes said it is possible due to substance abuse before adoption, or unstable conditions before the adoption. I am not, for one, going to say that these conditions are not likely with children who have to be relinquished; if their mothers could care for them, they would. If the conditions were stable, favorable, if the mothers did not feel overwhelmed, their mothers would keep them close. If I felt I could have kept my daughter, I would have. Was she troubled? Yes, by many demons; adoption was only one issue in her life, but it was there.
While previously most adoption research relied on questionnaires filled in by parents, Keyes and her team spoke directly to adoptees themselves. Working with three large agencies in Minnesota, they interviewed adoptees from age 11 to 21, as well as parents, mental health professionals and teachers. Participants who had a non-adopted sibling in the same age range were used to compare behaviors.
Behaviors often exhibited included attention- deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well as oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Children adopted from in the United States were more prone to behavioral disorders than those adopted overseas.
Some 40,000 children worldwide annually emigrate from more than 100 countries through adoption, a trend increasing rapidly in the U.S. since the 1970s. But these foreign adoptees are far more likely to internalize their problems, suffering more commonly from depression or separation anxiety disorders. Domestic adoptees, on the other hand, tend to act out.
*(See: Mormon Myths and Adoption Records; Mormon Opposition to Open Records; and Mormons on Meeting your (Birth) Child.
On another Note, Adoptive Mother Rosie O'Donnell, whose opposition to giving adoptees their rights is well known, is the featured celeb tonight on Who Do You Think You Are? It baffles me how she can participate in this and display the emotional interest in one's roots that the show so clearly demonstrates, yet she and her brother, Danny O'Donnell in the NY Assembly, are so very opposed to unsealing New York's sealed birth certificates. Of course, I have set my TV to record it; I expect to want to be throwing things at the television and Rosie when I watch it on Saturday.
Jane will be back in a day or so with more on the Oregon bill.