Effects of Adoption on Child Development - Child Abuse Prevention, Treatment & Welfare Services | Children's Bureau



Effects of Adoption on Child Development

Are you interested in starting the adoption process? Adoption is an incredible way to help a child in need and welcome them into a loving family. Although adopting children is widely acknowledged and honored, it can also be a complex transition for both the families and the adoptive children. With that in mind, identifying these complexities beforehand can help you navigate this road as an adoptive parent, simultaneously making the process easier on your child. Read on to learn more about the effects of adoption on child development and how to ease the transition as a family.

Recognizing​​ Their Family System

One of the most monumental moments for adopted children is understanding their adoptive families’ dynamic. Adopted children may feel different from new siblings or peers who are still with their birth families. When a young child discovers that they are adopted,heavy emotions may arise. For example, some children will become naturally curious about their biological parents, or even temporarily push away from their current family system as they process the information.

When Grief and Loss Arise

When children recognize themselves as an adoptee, there can be a significant amount of grief and loss that arises. Although the child has finally found a loving home, there are still significant hurdles to overcome when it comes to grief and loss. The following seven complexities are the most common experiences among adopted children:

  1. Loss
  2. Rejection
  3. Shame and guilt
  4. Grief
  5. Identity
  6. Intimacy
  7. Mastery and control

Each stage holds its own difficulties, however, with the right support and parenting tools, you and your child can learn to navigate this process together as a family.

Adoptee Potential Identity Crises

Oftentimes, adoptee children face what is known as an identity crisis, or even multiple identity crises. What this means is that the individual will doubt and challenge their sense of self and belonging in the world around them. Naturally, adoptees may feel a temporary lack of belonging in the home as well as feeling disregarded by their biological parents. This leaves children with a strong urge to find their true identity during childhood, ultimately leaving them with a significant amount of temporary confusion.

A child’s Identity goes hand-in-hand with their self-esteem. When an adopted child struggles to understand themselves and where they truly belong, they often find themselves trying to navigate through a negative sense of self-worth. This is especially true for international adoptees who also have to adapt to living in a foreign country.

Other Behavioral Issues

Whether your child has been adopted from their birth parents or from the foster care system, it is important to prepare yourself for behavioral issues that may arise as your child joins a new family system. 

You will want to carefully consider how and when you will approach this topic of adoption with them down the road. Additionally, identifying the relationship you want to have with the birth family will make a significant impact on your child’s life as they grow up as well. In doing so, you can limit some of the behavioral issues that may surface as they understand their role in the family.

What is the adopted child syndrome? When adopting from the foster care system, a significant amount of behavioral issues may arise. Unfortunately, the foster care system leaves some children increasingly traumatized and neglected. As such, attachment and mental health disorders may form. Here are the most common behavioral issues that occur in adopted children:

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

Regardless of the behavioral issues at hand, there are ways to treat and heal from past trauma and integrate the adopted child into your family.

Integrating an Adopted Child into Your Family

One of the best means of integrating an adopted child into your home is by giving them the outside support they need and deserve. Consider finding a therapist for your child to voice their concerns in a confidential and secure place. Children’s Bureau offers numerous mental health services for children up to the age of 21-years-old. With a focus on children who may have experienced trauma, Children’s Bureau is filled with the best therapists and mental health services to handle all forms of trauma, no matter how big or how small. 

Aside from therapy, here are our top tips for helping your adopted child feel welcome and loved in your home:

  • Allow them to create a space that expresses their individuality.
  • Make meals that they would enjoy.
  • Have them help you decorate around the house, especially during the holidays.
  • Consider adopting a pet as well, so they have a comfort buddy that they can transition into the home with.
  • Find out what is important and meaningful to your child and make that a priority in their lives at home.
  • Simply put, treat them as you would treat any and all of your children – with love, empathy, and excitement for their presence.

Welcoming Your Child Home

While the transition may not always be easy at times, you can guarantee that bringing an adopted child into a loving family makes all of the difficulties worth it. There will be moments when the impacts of adoption will be very clear through your child’s development; however, with the right amount of love and effort, your family will overcome this emotional barrier. Be mindful that you do not take any of your child’s trauma responses personally. Instead, continue to educate yourself as a parent to best handle certain situations and de-escalate outbreaks when they occur. In doing so, you will raise a healthy child and help build a beautiful and successful life ahead of them.



  1. https://www.nacac.org/resource/seven-core-issues-in-adoption-and-permanency/
  2. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-an-identity-crisis-2795948

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