Psychological Effects of Being Adopted - Children's Bureau



Psychological Effects of Being Adopted on Child Development

Adoption is a remarkable journey that can bring immense joy and fulfillment to both the child and the adoptive family. However, it’s important to acknowledge that it can also present unique challenges and complexities through the psychological effects of adoption. Understanding these potential issues can help adoptive parents better navigate the process and support their child’s development. 

Read more to explore the effects of adoption on child development and provide some strategies to facilitate a smoother transition for the family.

Recognizing​​ Their Family System

One of the significant milestones for adopted children is understanding the dynamics of their adoptive family. It’s not uncommon for adopted children to feel different from their siblings or peers who are still with their birth families. When a child learns that they are adopted, they may experience a range of emotions. Some may become curious about their biological parents, while others may temporarily distance themselves from their adoptive family as they process this new information

When Grief and Loss Arise

Recognizing oneself as an adoptee can bring about feelings of grief and loss. Despite finding a loving home, the child may still face significant emotional hurdles. The North American Council on Adoptable Children identifies seven core issues that are common among adopted children:

  • Loss
  • Rejection
  • Shame and guilt
  • Grief
  • Identity
  • Intimacy
  • Mastery and control

Each stage presents its own challenges, but with the right support and parenting tools, families can navigate these complexities together.

Adoptee Potential Identity Crises

Adopted children often face what is known as an identity crisis, where they question their sense of self and their place in the world, according to Kendra Cherry, a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist and author of the “Everything Psychology Book.”

This can be particularly challenging for international adoptees who also have to adapt to a new country and culture. During this time, children may struggle with self-esteem, a sense of belonging, and other psychological effects of being adopted. It’s important for adoptive parents to provide reassurance and support during these periods of uncertainty.

Other Behavioral Issues

Adopted children, whether from birth parents or the foster care system, may exhibit behavioral issues as they adjust to their new family dynamics. These can include:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Substance abuse and addiction

It’s crucial for adoptive parents to be prepared for these potential issues and to seek professional help when necessary.

Integrating an Adopted Child into Your Family

Integrating an adopted child into your family can be facilitated by providing them with the necessary support. This could include therapy, where the child can express their feelings in a safe and confidential environment.

In addition to therapy, here are some tips to help your adopted child feel welcome and loved in your home:

  • Allow them to create a space that expresses their individuality.
  • Prepare meals that they would enjoy.
  • Involve them in decorating the house, especially during the holidays.
  • Consider adopting a pet, which can provide comfort and companionship.
  • Find out what is important to your child and prioritize it in their lives at home.
  • Treat them with love, empathy, and respect, just as you would with any of your children.

Welcoming Your Child Home

While the transition may not always be smooth, the joy of welcoming an adopted child into a loving family makes the challenges worthwhile. There will be times when the impacts of adoption will be evident in your child’s development. However, with love, patience, and the right resources, your family can navigate these challenges together.

Remember not to take your child’s responses to trauma personally. Instead, continue to educate yourself as a parent to handle situations effectively and de-escalate conflicts when they occur. In doing so, you will raise a healthy child and help them build a successful life.

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