The Myth of Adopted Child Syndrome

adoption awareness month

Adoption can be a happy and positive event. The child who is adopted finds a new home and a supportive family. However, the very need for a child to be adopted means that they have experienced a loss of some sort and that can cause some issues, often well into adulthood. There is a myth of Adopted Child Syndrome that is controversial and does not tell the true story of issues faced by adopted individuals.

Adoption Awareness Month

November is National Adoption Awareness Month, a time to focus on the continuing need for the adoption of children in the US, especially teenagers. The theme for 2021 is “Conversations Matter,” as it’s important to talk about adoption, particularly with the young people who are in the foster system or who have been adopted. This month and throughout the year, having that conversation will create an environment where the adopted individual knows they can be honest and ask questions that are important to them.

A Controversial Term

The term Adopted Child Syndrome was first used in 1978 by Dr. David Kirschner. The term has become controversial, is not included in the latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), and is not considered a valid diagnosis. It has been used to describe the behavioral and emotional challenges that adopted children may experience, including problematic behaviors such as violence or defiance. However, Dr. Kirschner said that he used it to describe a very small clinical subgroup of individuals at the time of his study.

Adoption Challenges

There are legitimate issues facing adopted children and, in fact, some individuals have challenges throughout their adult lives because of the trauma they faced through their loss earlier in life. While adoption can give the child the loving, permanent home they need, the fact they need a new home can have negative effects on their mental and emotional health.

A young person who is adopted can struggle with low self-esteem, identity issues, difficulty forming emotional attachments, and a sense of loss or grief over the loss of their birth family. These negative effects can be short-lived and resolved once the adoptee feels an increased sense of security, but they can also arise in the individual during times of emotional stress throughout their lives.

Mental Health Issues

Several research studies indicate that there is an increased risk of mental health issues for adults who are adoptees. Studies found higher levels of anxiety, including panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, as well as depression among participants who had been adopted. The studies also found higher levels of behavioral disorders, certain personality disorders, and neuroticism.

Substance Abuse

In addition to the trauma of loss experienced by individuals who are adopted, there may have been issues with drug or alcohol addiction in the adoptee’s birth family that were at least partially responsible for that loss. The issues faced by the adopted child, coupled with certain genetic factors, could also lead to an increased rate of substance abuse that lasts into adulthood without appropriate treatment.

Research has found that the prevalence of a lifetime substance use disorder was 43% higher in individuals who had been adopted, compared with non-adoptees. The lifetime prevalence rates of alcohol use disorders was 41% and the rate of nicotine addiction was 25.4% for adoptees. The rates of illegal drug abuse in individuals who were adopted ranged from 2.9% for opioids to 13.2% for cannabis.

Adoption Competence in Treatment Options

One survey that was identified by the research studies revealed that about half of the participants were seeking therapy for a variety of reasons, including self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and family issues. Almost a fourth of the survey respondents noted that adoption competence was the highest factor in their choice of a therapist for their mental health issues. Having a mental health professional who specialized in their particular situation made a difference in terms of having someone who truly understands their stresses and challenges as adoptees.

Specialists in Adoption-Related Treatment

The professionals at PACE Recovery Center understand the struggles you may encounter as an adoptee, particularly in regard to adoption trauma and abandonment and attachment issues. Please contact PACE Recovery Center if you have been adopted or are an adoptive parent and struggle with alcohol, drugs, and mental illness. Our gender-specific, evidence-based addiction recovery center for men will help you begin the healing process and begin a remarkable journey. During these challenging times, our highly skilled team is adhering to COVID-19 guidelines to ensure you remain safe and healthy. You can reach us today at 800-526-1851.

 

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