' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: The Adoption Disadvantage?
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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Adoption Disadvantage?

Lorraine
I'm wading once again into the issues that being adopted raises and for the sake of peace in our bickering family, the divisive issue of primal wound shall be left out of the equation. 

Years ago I had a very public spat with Elizabeth Bartholet, a Harvard law professor who never appears to know of an international adoption she doesn't applaud, over the research showing that adoptees have more psychological and behavioral problems in general than the non-adopted. We were both guests on the PBS NewsHour and she called all such research: "Garbage." Her exact word. 

Despite her haughty dismissal, such research continues to accumulate--and now a new study found that adopted children tend to have more behavioral and academic problems in kindergarten and first grade than children raised by their biological parents. According to a research brief from the Institute for Family Studies, "young adoptive children" [a phrase new to me] were more likely than biological ones to get angry easily and fight with other students." This is only one of the differences psychologist Nicholas Zill found when he examined a longitudinal study of 19,000 students conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics beginning in 1998.

THE PLUS OF HIGH EXPECTATIONS
So, we are talking about a large-scale statistical study that even Prof. Bartholet and other nay-sayers would have trouble disputing. Of course I hasten to add, these numbers are merely patterns, and there will be some adopted children who are all-A students. 

Zill also found that adopted children were less likely to pay attention, less eager to learn new things, and didn't persist as long on challenging tasks. They didn't do so well in math as the non-adopted and slightly less worse than "birth children" on a reading test. 

Before I get onto Zill's analysis of what might be going on, let's explore a fascinating piece of research about why some kids might excel in school: teacher expectation. Writing about The Asian Advantage in education, columnist Nicholas Kristof recently wrote of a famous experiment conducted in the 1960s. Students whose teachers were told they could be expected to do well, did so--even though the "special" students were chosen at random and not selected for IQ or academic achievement. They were merely a random 20 percent. However, after a year with teachers operating under the impression they were budding geniuses, nearly half of them had gained 20 or more IQ points. An amazing gain, right? Kristof used this study as a possible explanation for the Asian's excellence as students and their superiority in the sciences.

The children who were part of the experiment were roughly the same age as the kindergarten and first graders, as this second group were first and second graders. Surely some of this self-fulfilling prophecy might be part of the case with the adopted children in the first study I mentioned? Low expectations, low achievement and behavior problems. In many cases, I think it's safe to say that many teachers know that the adoptees are exactly that: not the biological children of the parents raising them.

Zill, the researcher in the previous study, went another route. He posits that attachment theory, which holds that a strong bond with at least one nurturing adult--usually the mother--is essential to a child thriving. He goes on to say that the attachment could be to the adoptive parent, but it could also mean that the bond with the birth parent was disrupted or--in the worst case, never formed. Trust me, this is not good news for women like myself who gave up an infant, but there it is. Zill writes: 
"Children who do not develop a stable and secure bond during early childhood, or have the bond disrupted, are subject to both short-term distress reactions and longer-term abnormalities in their feelings and behavior toward other people. Not having a stable maternal bond is apt to produce long-lasting deficits in the child’s social development, deficiencies that are not easily remedied by a new home environment, no matter how favorable. 
"Some adopted children experienced neglect, abuse, or other stressful events prior to their adoption. According to traumatic stress theory, the likelihood of long-term emotional scars depends on the intensity and duration of the stress. Severe or prolonged early stress can have long-lasting effects on a child’s development, effects that a supportive adoptive family may only partly ameliorate."
He adds also that the intellectual level of adoptive parents are usually exceptionally high, and the genetic, and thus intellectual, backgrounds of the adopted children are often unknown. So it is likely the two are not in sync and despite any intellectual stimulation and encouragement (a plus) adoptive parents provide, they may not be able to overcome the native intellectual difference between them and the children.

BRINGING THE RESEARCH BACK HOME
All of this is especially interesting to me because I find research like this fascinating, but also because of my own experience regarding academic achievement, my daughter, and her situation. When I met my daughter Jane she was 15 and in a few special-ed classes, particularly in math. This was supposedly due to her epilepsy, and in truth that did lead to her missing a fair amount of schooling. However, she was writing poetry and keeping up in English. The first weekend we met, her adoptive mother told me that because our daughter had epilepsy, she thought I might be in a mental institution. (!) She grilled me on this, and about the background of the father, perhaps wondering if I were telling the truth. Put it together, and you have parents, and teachers--who certainly knew Jane was adopted--who did not expect her to do well academically. She would have been considered a dim bulb and treated as one. So she clearly was meeting everyone's low expectations.

Those who have read my full story in Hole In My Heart know that my daughter and I had a sometimes fraught relationship over the many years we had. However soon after we met, and I straightened out her mother that a) there were no mental deficiencies in my family or the father's and furthermore, we were both successful writers; and b) Jane ought to be not treated like someone mentally deficient. Jane didn't rise to the honors list in high school, but she did improve, got out of special ed, and began excelling in English. As I've written, I feel that if I had raised her, she would never have been shunted off to LD (learning disabled) classes in the first place. In fact, hearing that my daughter was "LD" was the very first thing I ever heard about her when I phoned her home. I had no idea what her mother meant and those are my initials, so I was mightily confused. Then the thorough questioning about mental retardation in my family that meant her mother wasn't convinced that I wasn't hiding something about my familiar genes passed on to Jane. It was weird.

In time, Jane would complete two years of college, be on the honors list, and be encouraged by an English professor to get a four-year degree after Jane aced her course on women writers. Jane was the only one in her adopted family of four (she had three siblings, one adopted, two not) to achieve that much education.

NOT TO SUGAR COAT ANYTHING...
I tell all this here because I don't believe in sugar-coating the reality of what it means when children are relinquished and adopted. Yes, I know adopted adults myself who are exceptionally bright and successful. Florence Fisher and B.J. Lifton come to my mind immediately, as well as my friends from outside the world of adoption--a successful and erudite book editor, a former speech writer for a major media mogul, a theatrical director, and some of the wonderful adoptees I've gotten to know through my work in adoption. But it appears they are the exception. They thrived despite the emotional and possible intellectual drawbacks of being relinquished--possibly before they were able to form a good attachment with their natural mothers.

I tell all this here in the hope that a woman considering letting her as yet unborn child be adopted will consider this before she goes ahead with an adoption. One can read all the pretty profiles of people willing to take your children--about their intellectual achievements and financial success--but make no mistake, there are drawbacks to letting one's child be given up for adoption. In some cases, adoptive parents unmistakably will provide a more enriched environment for academic achievement. But all that must be stacked up against what it means, at bottom, to be relinquished and raised by genetic strangers, and we know that brings a lot of pain to many an adoptee.

I tell all this here perhaps to reach natural mothers who have stayed away from their children in open adoptions because they, the mothers, can't handle the pain of seeing their children. Though we frequently hear of adoptive parents who close open adoptions, birth/first mothers do it too. They walk away because it is too painful to stay involved. That was the case with footballer Colin Kaepernick's mother, Heidi Russo, and now she would so much like to reconnect with her son. Open adoption is not simply for a birth mother's advantage; it is for the child's too.

And lastly, I address mothers who are thinking of searching but tell themselves their children are better off not knowing you, or an irrational fear of "interrupting" their lives. Their lives were interrupted when they were relinquished. No one can say how welcome a reunion might be, but no one can say that it won't change your child's life for the better. And it just might.--lorraine
___________________________
FROM FMF
What babies learn before birth
How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives

TO READ

"This independently published book adds to the more recently scholarly dialog that has emerged of late around the issue of the adoption industry and coerced relinquishment of infants at birth including Ann Fessler's book _The Girls Who Went Away_ and documentary, 'A Girl Like Her,' Kathryn Joyce's recent investigative journalism in 'The Child Catchers' and Rickie Solinger's historic work on reproductive justice and women's right to parent.

"Dusky's publication adds a unique perspective that is at once subjective (her own experience), journalistic and historically accurate as she weaves into her narrative and narrative tale, the trail of documentation that demonstrates the social, ideological and legal machinations at work during the timeframe of her story. This is a critical addition to the scholarship on reproductive justice."--Pamela Salela, professor of Women's and Gender Studies at the University of Illinois, Springfield on a listserv for academics in the field. 

THANK YOU ALL FOR ORDERING THROUGH FMF. JUST CLICK ON A TITLE OR JACKET LINK TO GET TO AMAZON, AND THE BLOG WILL BE CREDITED. 

64 comments :

  1. Thank you. A few years ago I experienced an unplanned pregnancy. I went searching online for information on adoption, being a 'birth mother' and found your site. I continue to come back for such solid information and insight. At the time I gave birth I was not able to raise my child, for reasons that I will keep confidential, and my parents wanted to, asked, and assumed the role of guardian and caretaker. It was a difficult decision (and still difficult) but I take comfort that this is a more well-informed decision thanks to this blog and being informed about the importance of family bonds.

    With much gratitude I thank counselors at Catholic Charities for telling me that while adoption is a good choice for some women, it's not for most, and it's not for all. They pushed me to be self-aware and understand that for my child adoption was not a good choice. I mention this because I was initially terrified that CC would want to 'grab' my child based on passed ills committed and spoken of on first mother blogs and perhaps other women today need to know this. I must say that they truly carried more than other organizations who were interested in pairing me off to an adoptive family, questioning me about my education, asking me if it would be alright for a family to be in the delivery room, wanting to know why I thought open adoption was the best/wanting me to agree to photos/updates AT THE FIRST MEETING. Another organization these questions were asked on the phone. After that treatment I finally met with CC and it was such a difference. I went in saying "I'm putting my baby up for adoption" and after counseling sessions realized otherwise.

    Thank you for your blog. I named my child, and that is their name to this day. I know my child and I'm confident that the relationship with my child will grow. I pray that one day I will be able to take a more prominent role in their life.

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    1. Catholic Charities must have changed overnight. In the Baby Scoop Era adoption was the objective and religious workers went to great lengths to break the bond between mother and child leaving countless grieving mothers and maladjusted adoptees.

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    2. From what I've heard and my own experience, how one feels about the pressure or lack of from an agency depends not only on the agency, the both the times and most specifically on the individual social workers. In my case, at a secular agency back in the baby scoop era, I believe my social worker would have applauded if I had taken home my baby at the last moment. The young teen I shared a room with. She and the father, both high school kids, came to say goodbye to the child, and took the baby home, my social worker told me without a trace of disapproval.

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    3. I could very well see that, Lorraine, and my intent with the comment was to show that my reality was very different than what I anticipated it would be. Like everyone, my story is unique, and part of that uniqueness is that I live in one state, my doctor in another, and my parents in another. I independently met with CC in all three jurisdictions (for various reasons too long to mention here) and at two of those spoke with the director of adoption/parenting/kinship care. I mention independently because my 'file' was not shared between the three/they did not all discuss my case together. Each encouraged outside counseling by an independent third party too.

      The experience between all three was near identical, and CC in my parent's home state were very cautious and wanted me to go through more counseling even while discussing kinship care and resources after the child was born and already in my parent's home.

      I don't say or claim that all CC, or all adoption organizations are like this. I just wish I wasn't overly scared of the baby scoop era information that I had read because I put off talking with them sooner. Had I not spoken with CC I am almost certain that my child would be in an adoptive family out of coercion.

      I post this here because I'm not comfortable posting reviews for these organizations, both the good and the bad, on Yelp.

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  2. So much of this is bullshit. First of all my adoptive mother is one of the most illogical stupidest women on earth. Secondly, Zill writes that we adoptees don't do as well because we were abused before we were adopted, well my adoptive mother abused me my whole life and I know I would of been loved and fine if I WASN'T adopted, so he is wrong. You nor him can put us all in a box Lorraine. I agree many adoptees have problems in school but that is because we are numb/angry/scared that we are told we can't know who our own mothers are so that makes us hate rules, hate authority, hate to do work we may not like anyway like math and English. No big mystery here, you get oppressed like all adoptees are and your motivation goes out the window. WE aren't the problem, adoptive parents, birth parents who actually put us in open adoption and the adoption industry IS the problem. We only respond normally to being treated like trash.

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    1. Agreed. Adoptees are the recipient of the problem. I don't think Zill was blaming the children; his paper is an indictment of adoption in the first place.

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  3. Interesting food for thought. I'm an adoptee and a high achiever (a standout in both my adoptive and natural families, actually), but harbor constant feelings of inadequacy. I second-guess everything, although I suspect most people who meet me don't realize that. Clearly, we each manifest this differently.

    I have a theory that some adoptees are high achievers because we are constantly proving (to the world and ourselves) that we deserve to be here. Would love to hear others' thoughts on that.

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    1. All parents need to feel validated, but the need may be more acute for adoptive parents, who may already feel inadequate because they weren't able to conceive. I think being a high achiever is one way adoptees can validate their adoptive parents. "See, we are good parents, we are deserving of a child..."

      Adoptees may over-achieve in order not feel like they are a mistake, or to align themselves with the adoptive parents in order to not be abandoned. They also may be saying "F you" to the adoptive family. "See, I'm superior to you, I don't belong to you, you have no power over me, I'm not like you."

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    2. Yes, watch the more famous adoptees in action. I see them as "You should not have given me up, see how good I am? I was WORTH keeping".

      If Steve Jobs had been kept, maybe he would have given the world more than a dumb ole phone.

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    3. About ten years ago the "Oregonian" ran a series about a 16 year old adoptee cello player who won a national contest and got to play with Yo-Yo Mah. He told the reporter "I want my birth mother to see this so she'll know what she gave away."

      Sadly, he soon gave up the cello and began having behavioral problems. The adoptive parents had him kidnapped and taken forcibly to a treatment program.

      Certainly being adopted was a motivating factor for him. Playing the cello (or not) was also a weapon he used against his adoptive mother who played the cello. When he was young she took him to church events and they played duets. Once he quit the cello and became an embarrassment, she shipped him off.

      The young man was African-American, born in L. A. who was being raised in a small all-white town in Eastern Oregon by conservative religious adoptive parents.

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    4. Terri, I too am an "over-achieving" adoptee. I always wanted to be the best at whatever I did (very competitive). I believe this mindset came from my imaginative feeling of being watched from afar by birth mother. Always hoping she might appear someday, I wanted to be proud of my accomplishments and for her to be proud of me! We've been in reunion for three years now and I feel such tremendous relief and an ability to relax my Type A nature. Finding and happily reuniting with both sides of my first families is my BIG achievement. All other accomplishments, from now on, feels like gravy.

      As far as academics, my adoptive parents put zero pressure on me to do well in school. Grades of B and C's were fine with them. They knew little of my background. I think they did have low expectations. My older adoptive brother, on the other hand, was told that his first father was a Notre Dame Professor and his mother was about to earn her masters degree in chemistry. The whole family put very high expectations on him! He turns fifty this year and still hasn't settled on a solid career. Yes, naturally brilliant but unfocused. When reuniting with his first families, we found out that his father was not a Notre Dame professor.

      Turns out MY father graduated from Notre Dame, then went on to graduate with a masters degree from University of PA (ivy league)! Turns out my mother earned FOUR degrees in the fields of nursing and education and that all of her sisters attended college. High achieving families! My adopted mom's father did not believe in higher education for women. He said women belonged in the home. Period. Throughout my life, the pull of nature vs nurture regarding career and family life has been a real struggle. Now I know why! Genetically, I have the background to GO FOR IT, but was told for decades that the most important space for me was in the home tending the children. Making peace with all of that now.

      Had my adoptive family known about my first families accomplishments I do think that they would have nudged me to earn better grades, which would have given me even more opportunities and choices early in my college career. Also, they may have found a way to find help for me (tutoring) when they saw me struggle in certain subjects. That said, my biological brother had a terrible in school and they did not seek help for him. I don't think my adopted mother knew how to help him or where to seek help.

      My academic struggles are common in my first family. The entire family struggles with math (dyscalculia), ADHD, and a bit of anxiety. Knowing this information has helped me understand my children and their struggles. Learning about the original family's struggles came out slowly once trust was built. Sometimes it's difficult for adopted parents (like mine) to understand and come to term with an ongoing relationship with first families. Mine would say, "I get why you'd want to know your medical background, but why more?" I can guarantee you that ADHD, Depression/Anxiety, Learning Disorders would never have been formally documented on some kind of generic form by my first mother. Sensitive- and important- information seeps out over time.





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    5. Kelli-that's some story! Re my daughter: She is the only one of four children (two adopted, two bio) to complete as much college as she did. Had it not been for the multiple challenges of her epilepsy and the drugs she had to take for her seizures I feel quite confident she would have completed four years of college at least. Both of her daughters are college graduates.

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  4. Actually, Terri, that many adoptees become high achievers to please their adoptive parents is a theory that is talked about in adoption circles but I haven't seen anybody write about it. Or at least they become "Good adoptees" who don't want to upset the apple cart at home and prove they are worthy to be in the family. Florence Fisher has talked about that as she felt she encountered it repeatedly when adoptees began searching for their natural parents but were afraid to proceed.

    My granddaughter Britt who was largely raised by my daughter's adoptive parents (Jane proved unable to manage her epilepsy and the responsibilities of single motherhood, and a job) from age 5-14, and Britt has said she knew she was the adoptive parents 'second chance" to have a daughter who was a: Good Girl Who Didn't Cause Trouble.

    I loved it when she visited and wasn't exactly the little angel I kept hearing she was....

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  5. Terri, I am glad you did not give your child up for adoption but speaking as an adoptee I hope your child knows that YOU are his/her mother, and was not told that YOUR mother is his or her mother. No parent has a right to play identity games like that with their child, because you can't believe how much betrayal we feel how much distrust, how much pain and anger when crap like that is pulled on us. And while I am on the subject Lorraine, I just want to tell you that I have read the introduction to your book Hole in my Heart concerning adoption language and I totally disagree with you when you say using the term "real mother" is used by those who are naïve about adoption, well, ha, I have been calling my unknown mother my real mother since I was ten years old. I am in my fifties and the reason I called her that decades ago is because THAT is what she is. I said that because it comes from my heart, and plain ole logic. A person only gets one mother in this life, despite this man made fake system called adoption. I don't agree either that adoptive mothers are mothers. They are only over glorified babysitters imo who force us to call them mom. We have no choice in it-people who aren't adopted live in reality from day one, adoptees aren't allowed to anymore from the moment we are taken from them.

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    1. Anonymous--
      What I actually say in the introduction is this: "The phrase "real mother" as in--"Are you ever going to search for your real mother?"--which comes out of the mouths of many not schooled in adoption-industry lingo--drives most adoptive parents around the bend....Both women who give up their children and the women who raise them are real mothers....

      That is somewhat different from what you say I wrote, but yes, does include the naive who are not schooled in language.

      Please choose a name, as noted in our comment box.

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    2. My parents are my child's grandparents. I am the mother. It is a matter of biology and therefore the child is being raised to know that there is a guardianship relationship between child-grandparent.

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  6. I meant to say Sarah in my last comment not Terri. My bad, sorry.

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  7. Okay, I guess I am confused about your reply to me. Are you saying the phrase "real mother" is right or wrong to use? Are you saying if it is considered wrong that is due to adoption industry bs? No one knows how it feels to be adopted, including real mothers so our experience is going to be different than yours concerning adoption. I suppose we will never agree that adoptive mothers are mothers or mothers as much as the mother who gives birth to us, but as an adoptee I feel adoptive mothers are hijackers and brainwashers and that is my right. I also don't give a damn what sends adoptive mothers over the bend as you put it. What ever discomfort they have, they deserve.

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    1. I'm with you. I only had one mother. Raising a child, even from birth does not and can not make you their mother! You can be like a mother, but that title only belongs to the one who gave me life.

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  8. Hi Micki: Personally, I feel that real mother is totally appropriate for mothers like me. If my daughter ever used it, I was thrilled; but I also know that mothers who raise children are real mothers too.

    But I know that its usage like that really really hurts adoptive parents. As I say somewhere, the fire that occurs over language is testament to how emotional the issue of adoption is. Truth is, I always felt like my daughter's "real" mother. Because I was. Actually I applaud your chutzpah here.

    Now imagine a smiley face.

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  9. Zill treats the “adopted children” as if they all arrived in their adoptive families in exactly the same condition, in other words, he assumes there is some kind of baseline adoptee. This is clearly false. Pre-adoption, one would need to know things like whether the a-parents and child were going to be of the same race; whether the adoption was domestic or international; conditions at at birth (both of child and family); age of surrender; conditions of interim placement; presence of absence of abuse; and length of institutionalization (if institutionalized). These would all be extremely important variables associated with a youngster's readiness to do well in Kindergarten or Grade 1. Zill doesn't or can't control for any of these variables because they are missing information, but by omitting them, he presents an oversimplified picture. However, it is true that adopted kids are more likely to have school issues than kept ones.

    On a side note, this institute has a conservative agenda regarding marriage and family life and thinks the biological children of married people are best off. One wonders what he would think of single raising their own kids.

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  10. Honestly, the research is biased, sadly. Therefore it is unusable in any real way. However, I find it interesting that a large number of the school shooters were not only adoptees, but upper middle class..... hmmmm......

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    1. ITA. There's definitely something going on with this connection but it would be nice if we could get research that accounts for all the variables. "Adopted" covers a lot of territory.

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    2. Jess, you're right, accounting for ALL variables would be good but that's probably not possible, and I don't think was in Zill's research, as he was looking at such large scale data and wouldn't have had access to the myriad of variables involved.

      What is notable is that the research was the basis for an on-line piece in The Atlantic. --Or I think it was only on line/

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    3. And Zill didn't even take into account the variables within the adoptive family. Yup, probably nearly impossible research.

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  11. I do believe I am my son's mom. The person he called mom was his adoptive mom. If this were not true she wouldn't have needed to adopt him. She would have gave birth to him.

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  12. this article made me feel a bit like a stupid adoptee... My mother also left me at the hospital so I would not be in the abusive situation her and my sister were... but I was also abused by aparents... I could get A's easily at school but my ptsd was a problem and ofter when staring into space i would be told off for daydreaming...I also got into fights at school but this is because I was bullied for being biracial and my aparents did nothing to help me when I informed them of it.... I think that ptsd should definitely be taken into account as I know I had it my entire life   and it is not a matter of choice.

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    1. Jane, you had a lot of crosses to get around and it's to your credit that you managed to. PTSD as a result of being adopted would certainly make the scientific community pay attention. They are beginning to but there is a still a long way to go.

      As for mothers who relinquish, Karen Wilson Butterbaugh has written about the effects of relinquishing a child and how they add up to PTSD. Whether or not others recognize the effects with a label is immaterial. Both groups end up hurting.

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  13. I think that research is a good idea. However there are still so many people who honestly believe in the"privacy" bullshit that it's unlikely to be done. Also it would necessarily have to be conducted by a person who has no connection to adoption nor any real opinion on it, to be valid and reliable. I don't know anyone who fits that description.

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  14. Thank you. I am a bio mother AND an adoptive mother & I think the only people who really benefit from adoption are the adoptive parents. I would like to see a society that fully supports children staying with their birth mother if at all possible. I was lucky to be able to be an attachment parent & breastfeed all 3 of my kids, both bio & adopted kid got my very best parenting but to think that adopted children or that women who relinquish aren't wounded, is both a wishful & hurtful belief.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Yep, to what you said, Willa G.

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  15. You know I think we need to look at the word "achieve". Some people, including adoptees just don't like school. I think we like it a lot less when we are adopted because of all the pressure to do homework for subjects we can't stand and get good grades which is made worse because we feel oppressed already. Oppressed because we can't get the one thing we want and need the most-to know who the hell our parents are. Like I said before, that kind of trauma and emotional binding destroys motivation, but as I started out saying some adoptees like non adopted kids want to be musicians, or actresses or car mechanics and just don't feel they need a traditional education pushed on them. They would feel this way if they weren't adopted too. The problem with Zill and teachers is that they put too much emphasis on education and "doing well" in school. I mean seriously, does anyone think Meg Ryan ever needed to excel in algebra or American history? This creates other problems however for adoptees because most adoptees are different than their adoptive parents and most adoptive parents of talented adoptees try to undermine their talent or the need they have to make a career out of it because it didn't come from them. Then they get really into imo dumb reports by people like Zill who aren't even adopted by the way which is just another way to blame the adoptee, bash the adoptee and ignore how selfish as an adoptive parent they really are..

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  16. One thing stands out to me in your comment, Micki, and that is pressure to achieve (let me use the word here in the broad sense) in subjects you don't like. And who would know what subjects you do like? Your natural parents, of course! Of course...in the meantime, the adoptee is unhappy trying to excel in the subjects the parents are interested in. It takes a generous and understanding adoptive parent--and there are some, they comment here--to let the children follow their own path (of course they have to find it for themselves) and then encourage that, even if it is far afield from the family they are raised in.

    I saw one adoptee young'un being shepherded into playing an instrument she didn't care about...and later take up a career that is in the same general area as her family of origin. So it goes.

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    1. Uh, disputing the notion that natural parents automatically understand the subjects that kids like. Many do not because they are overly biased by their own preferences. Mine didn't. My mother was somewhat idiotic in this regard. Genetics is a crap shoot--a confluence of DNA going back thousands of years. You can be as much a mystery to natural parents as you would be to adoptive parents, My daughter (adopted) is completely different from me in some big, influential areas, but we talk about it and revel in it. I agree that this very important message should be given to PAPs. But I think it should be given to every parent: don't expect a clone.

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    2. ^^ Written by an amom, shocker.

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    3. I thought I was nothing like my mother growing up. But she was the wind beneath my wings and really was instrumental in seeing that I was able to go to college. I don't write about it much in Hole♥ but she was there when my father (whom I adored) said: Girls don't go to college, we're not from that kind of family, etc.

      And I found many traits in myself looming in one of my grandmothers who obviously had backbone and grit!

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    4. Jess, it's not the same when natural parents don't understand their kids as it is when adopted parents don't. I am very uneasy at the constant defense of "well, that happens in biological families, too" defense that is often trotted out when issues in adoption are discussed. It is, I believe, and attempt to normalize a situation that should always be recognized as the difficult and complex situation that it is. It's that much harder to deal with your parents not understanding you when you know that a genetic connection that *might* make it easier isn't there, and you only had a snowball's chance in hell of making it work without it. You are right that no parent should expect a clone, but the likelihood of it happening in adoption, with no genetic chance, is so rare that it makes it a much greater issue on top of other complications.

      I say all this as an adoptive parent myself. My adopted daughter and I are randomly far more alike than my biological daughter and myself. The latter takes after my husband in many ways, while I constantly see myself in my daughter who is adopted. It was by mere chance that she and I are similar, and while I celebrate the ways in which we are different, too (she has a natural athleticism that the rest of us are absolutely lacking ;) and an innate sense of humor that far transcends my sarcastic quirkiness- wonderful genetic gifts from her mother), I am not bothered when people talk in generalities about how adoptive parents often do not understand the unique traits of their adopted children. Generally, I do see that this is a problem, and even though it can happen in biological families, the damage that it can further induce in adoptive families shouldn't be minimized by making that point.

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  17. Okay, just food for thought here... my daughter was planned, wanted and loved. She was breast fed, spoiled with love and cared for, well behaved, articulate and wonderful. The state of Arizona and a social worker decided she needed to be with a woman who was as old as my own mother, because the woman was "more mature" and had a black husband - thus racially mixed correctly - and they had money... it changed hands because lies were told and she was taken out of the United States over 6 months prior to the finalization of the adoption.... only to return for a short time over two years later (for Kindergarten in Sacramento, CA). I can't find any legal marriage records for the adoptive parents, there is a woman sharing the adoptive mother's name living in a small town near them, and my daughter swears they abused her.

    Now, if you think that genetics is the end all and be all of behavioral issues - then why would she go around stalking me, lying to people who actually know me, doing everything possible to screw up my life - up to and including trying to use my name and credit, stealing from my home and being abusive to my family (while in my home, on a trip that I paid for, when my spouse had just died). No one in my family behaves that way - NO ONE. No matter how messed up my family is, we don't do those kinds of things. Most of us wouldn't even do something like that to an ex that we "loved" - because that is just not how we are.

    Someone tell me that this is what children raised in their biological families do every day - because every time I let her near me, it is like massive repeat....

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    1. I do know children who are equally horrible to their biological parents as your daughter has been to you, and usually drugs and alcohol are involved, or generally sociopathic behavior. I know people who had to get restraining orders on their biological child, had to call the police, had to kick them out of the house after repeated robbery, abuse, violence. Also know adoptive parents dealing with the same things, it is no respecter of what kind of family it is. No it is not all genetics or all environment, but sometimes a toxic mix of both and hell for parents like Lori who have to deal with it. If anyone actually has an answer to what causes this, they could prevent a lot of heartbreak, but so far I have not seen any real answers. As parents we all do the best we can and hope for a good outcome, but nobody can guarantee it.

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    2. Tilla,

      I simply want her to go away and not come back. I have to block her - on all fronts. I have been considering just going dark or changing my name - she is not into drugs or alcohol, so generally speaking she acts like a neurotic person with massive narcissistic characteristics that are terrifying to me.

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  18. Despite the drawbacks to Zill's study, despite that it was published by a conservative group, it is a large-scale study of 19,000 students and the conclusions are likely to be replicated by others with numbers like that--that adoptees in the early grades have behavior problems and do less well than the non-adopted on academic tests.

    And some adoptees do exceedingly well, we know for our own experience. Shall we go with that?

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    1. I think it's a start but this has been known for decades. Mind you, it still doesn't get a lot of play--I agree. But it's not good enough. If there are specific variables along the chain of events that make a child more at risk than other events, we should know that. Unless adoption is to be eliminated entirely, reducing the risks would be a good thing.

      There was statement in the research suggesting that adoptees might be dimmer lightbulbs than their APs and I think it would be a shame if anyone took that at face value. There is obviously something going on, but what is it?

      For example:

      " [A] meta-analysis of 62 studies (N 17,767 adopted children) examined whether the cognitive development of adopted children differed from that of (a) children who remained in institutional care or in the birth family and (b) their current (environmental) nonadopted siblings or peers.

      "Adopted children scored HIGHER [my emphasis] on IQ tests than their nonadopted siblings or peers who stayed behind, and their school performance was better. Adopted children did not differ from their nonadopted environmental peers or siblings in IQ, but their school performance and language abilities lagged behind, and more adopted children developed learning problems. Taken together, the meta-analyses document the positive impact of adoption on the children’s cognitive development and their remarkably normal cognitive competence but delayed school performance."

      So this study speaks directly to the effects of institutionalization. This could be done with other factors. Who knows, for example, how much race would affect an adoptee's school performance in a school where his or her race was the subject or curiosity or derision? (And this would be on top of the normal adoptee issues.) Quite a bit, I'm guessing, as there is already research showing that African American kids living with their own families are similarly affected in school performance by anticipating negative stereotyping.

      All I am suggesting is that the more they dig into this, the more helpful the results will be.

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    2. I think that no one is immune to the "crazy" behaviors and yes, there are many adoptees that are well presented in life. I am curious how many of those adoptees are really emotionally stable.... The research for this would be amazing! Sigh...that would be the psychology major in me.

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    3. Does anyone know how many of the 19,000 studied in the Zill study were adoptees?

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    4. I'm feeling under the weather, but follow the links embedded in the post and you'll get to the original study.

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    5. Thanks. Found it. It was hard to see.
      160 adoptees out of 19,000 doesn't seem to make for a very robust comparison to me

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  19. Lori, who are you talking about? (Stalking you etc), the child you gave up for adoption?

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    1. Yes - the one I gave up for adoption - the one that has gone out of her way to make my life horrible for the last almost 14 years.

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    2. Please note, if she wasn't so darn mean and vindictive - or even cared a little bit, I would be happy to have her in my life - but she comes at me like a freight train. Telling me who I am supposed to be, how to act and think. Then saying that it is all about her.... and steals, lies, and uses me and my family - How am I supposed to feel? I love my daughter, always, but do I want to spend my life with a person that goes out of their way to attack me? No!

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  20. Everyone does realize that the reason I mentioned the other study, which started out about The Asian Advantage--is to show that expectations by teachers and of course parents have a lot to do with results. And it would be that planing a "he's adopted," or the the phsycial difference that makes that clear, could be the reason for lowered expectations.


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    1. Actually, the event of a chronically sexually abused person turning to violence is almost never going to happen. The idea that being sexually abused, even horribly, creates that kind of violence is almost ludicrous. Not saying it does not happen, simply stating that it is very, very rare.

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  23. Lori, if you have better information please share it as i would be interested in reading it. i dont dispute what you say because i just have no idea. But i had always heard common knowledge was that the vast majority of pedophiles were sexually victimized as children, and that the rate of violent offenders in prison who were sexually molested as children is pretty high.

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    1. Kaisa G, "Common Knowledge" is often stereotyping rather than truth. There is a grain of truth that is blown out of proportion. The person who is sexually abused is not really the person that will abuse, but the majority of abusers that get caught are abuse victims. The original perpetrators are not usually abused. It is very convoluted, however, while studying psychology (3rd degree), I discovered that the fallacy of the abused becoming abusers or violent was something that almost all psychologists will agree to disagree with. Most sexually abused people are browbeaten and tormented by their abusers, they usually do not resort to violence, unless there are extenuating circumstances. The physically abused person, someone who is beaten or physically tortured, is more likely to become violent or, amazingly enough a person who is emotionally abused for a long time and who is not "breakable" - meaning they have a strong sense of self - is likely to become violent and strike back at their abusers.

      However, unless one or both of those other elements exists, a sexually abused person will not strike out violently.

      The research is out there, but far too many people watch things like Law and Order SVU and make assumptions from there.

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  24. I had also heard that many sex offenders and abusers had themselves been molested as children; also that violent offenders were often abused and raised with violence. But then there are the other abuse victims who overcame what happened them and went on to be good parents and good citizens. There has to be some element of choice and responsibility.

    I am puzzled about bringing school shooters into the discussion of adoptees with problems, I had not heard about any of them being adoptees, but admit I have not paid close attention to those horrible and upsetting stories. Where does this idea come from?

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  25. Lori, I have to tell you I m offended by you saying your daughter is "stalking" you. That term does not apply to parent/child relationships or to any other family member for that matter. Secondly, maybe you just don't know all she has been through. You must of hurt her deeply for her to act this way and perhaps just don't want to see how your behavior sets her off? I think after all the hell we adoptees go through with identity issues and feelings of abandonment no real mother has a right to speak of her child the way you do. And just the fact that you do shows extreme resentment towards her, like you are blaming her for being conceived, which uh, is not her fault. Or any other adoptees.

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    1. Lori's story is long and arduous, and she has written about it extensively in other posts. I understand your feeling about the word "stalking" and your point is well made, but in this case it may serve as there are multiple problems involved. This however is not the place to go into the details of that relationship that did involve reunion, financial aid and emotional support.

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  26. "Intellectual level of adoptive parents are usually exceptionally high"

    Couldn't be further from the truth in my case. What's "high" is usually their inability to accept their childlessness and tame their entitlement. It's also been said that unless you are intelligent yourself, you are not capable recognizing intelligence in others, which certainly contributed to my own education as an adoptee.

    I firmly believe that children who are loved and adored by their biomothers are the luckiest people in the world. I go crazy when people call Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford, and Nancy Reagan "adopted." Although they were adopted by their mother's husbands, they never lost that irreplaceable bond with their own mothers. Then there's Steve Jobs, who was a true adoptee, and a well-documented emotional (yet "successful") disaster.

    Great post, thanks, Lorraine.

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    1. Totally drives me crazy too when people who were adopted by step-parents are considered..."adoptees." Not quite the same thing. By a long mile.

      And thanks.

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  27. The study cited in this article only shows a difference between adopted children and children in households with BOTH biological parents. Children in step and single parent families show no significant advantage to the adopted group.

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