Geneticist Robert Plomin says children take
after their biological parents, not adoptive.
In "Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are," Robert Plomin, a behavioral geneticist at King's College London, is the latest researcher to conclude that babies are not balls of clay, shaped by their parents after birth, but come at birth with imprinted traits from their biological parents. In essence, he posits that parental nurturing has little effect on the adults children grow up to become.
Plomin's research echos that of earlier scientists, including Judith Rich Harris who stated that adopted children do not resemble their adoptive parents in intelligence, character or personality; and Steven Pinker who wrote "The doctrine of a blank slate is a totalitarian's dream". To them, the nature/nurture argument was over, and nature had won.
To us who live adoption, we understand that the desire of adoptees to learn their origins, and the intense grief of mothers who lose their children, is proof that the bond between us is driven by natural forces that is not broken by time or distance.
|Abe, Rebecca, & Jane 2018|
These truths butt up against the desires of the infertile and misguided do-gooders who reject the obvious because it suits their comfortable belief system, and the power of the billion dollar adoption and fertility industries. Adopters pretty much accept what's available. They'll take the baby the pregnant woman ("birth mother") offers as long as she isn't a drug user. If they go the intercountry route, they'll take what the industry offers. They assure themselves that the randomly selected child was meant to be a part of their family. In the bad ole' days of the "baby scoop era" (1945 to 1973), adoptive parents thought of children as balls of clay they could shape. Today, adoptive parents recognize there may be differences they can't control; but all too often they cannot help but hope that they will shape the child to be more like them than is possible, while still repeating the mantra that they'll accept the child as he is. It's okay if he doesn't like sports or can't carry a tune.
The truth though is that we do best with people who are like ourselves, share our interests as well as personalities, and these people are more likely than not to be genetic relatives. Differences complicate relationships, if not prevent them from ever forming in a meaningful way. It's not just sports or music, it's the child that clumps loudly on stairs no matter how often she is corrected, which Lorraine's surrendered daughter endured in her adoptive home. Or the girl that hates makeup and eschews fashion who is adopted into a family of style-setters. Having an eye for clothing and style is so natural to these adoptive parents, they can't believe the child really truly doesn't have any idea about what to wear. They may go so far as to conclude she's suffering from oppositional defiance disorder--and send her off to therapy. It's not until the child meets her natural family, that she learns it's okay--even preferred--if you wear no makeup, and don't care a whit about what's in style.
Today many of the infertile or gay communities try to avoid the pitfalls of taking a complete genetic stranger into their nests through "assisted reproduction" using anonymous DNA donors, who are in reality selling their eggs or sperm. They do mental gymnastics believing that having a stranger's DNA won't matter as long as they can select the donor through unverified information posted on a website, or in a fertility clinic look book, but at the same time believing that it's important the child share their--assuredly superior--traits. Unlike sealed birth certificates (which may be unsealed), the identity of donors is buried in medical records protecting the assisted-reproductive parents from a genetic parent showing up years later. The truth of course is that the children will have traits from the donor, and the need to know their origins may drive them to seek out the donor.
If the works of Plomin, Rich Harris, and Pinker were more widely accepted, they might cause people to re-think adoption and assisted reproduction and have children when they are still biologically able to. While the works of these scientists are reviewed in popular magazines, the articles always include opinions from other scientists assuring readers that genetics is not destiny coupled with ominous warnings that the geneticists' views would lead to forced sterilizations and eventually to something resembling Nazi death camps.
Plomin counters the latter by pointing out that the causes of average differences aren't necessarily related to causes of individual difference. Inheritability can be very high for a specific trait, but the average difference between groups--ethnic or gender--could be entirely environmental. Thus his research does not support opinions on the inferiority or superiority of a particular race, ethnic group, or gender.
You're turning into your parents
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Adoptee and birth family synchronicity: Quirks run in families
Analysis: Three Identical Strangers separated at birth for a social experiment
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Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are
By Robert Plomin
By Judith Rich Harris
Excellent challenge to our culture's understanding of parenting
Excellent challenge to our culture's understanding of parenting
This book fundamentally changed the way I see human personality and the way we behave. For me, this wasn't just theoretical: it helped me to understand my own motivations, and the difficulties I faced as a teenager. It was an eye-opening shift in the perspective I had on my own life.... Our culture is so quick to blame the parents when anything goes wrong, but this book does an excellent job of illustrating how study after study have demonstrated that parents don't have anywhere near as much influence as we all seem to assume.
Synchronicity and Reunion: The Genetic Connection of Adoptees and Birthparents
By LaVonne Stiffle
LaVonne Harper Stiffler has written one of the best books on synchronicity that I have ever seen. Synchronicities are coincidences that are often so improbable as to make them deeply meaningful to the participants in these highly unlikely interlinkings of experiences.This book details numerous amazing reports--from people who were adopted early in life and from their birth parents--relating how they were helped through highly unusual synchronicities to locate each other.Stiffler's narration is supplemented by the most extensive references.
Steven Pinker: The Blank Slate : The Modern Denial of Human Nature
By Steven Pinker
As a parent of two children I was particularly interested in his parenting section, where the argument of "nature VS nurture" is torched. Explanations for how a parent does and doesn't shape their kids are unique, basically he's saying that parents are less significant than the rest of the environment (country, region, city/town) and what the culture that environment provides. While this might appear a "it takes a village" leftist argument, in reality it's just a common sense argument that I see every day as a person who left home to move to a different part of the world and after meeting a girl there; watch as my children grow up here and how different they are from me as a child and are more like other children here. Yet at the same time his use of adoption studies and separated twin studies are at once fascinating and also hard to argue against as he explains how much of us is in the genes and not in that environment.