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Old 09-21-2012, 04:06 AM
 
Location: Chicago area
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This is something I've been thinking about and I was wondering if anyone knows of any studies on the subject or have a good theory about it.

Clearly, as is obvious by reading some posts on this site and the many adoptee blogs and sites out there, many adoptees are emotionally harmed by their adoption. Some feel abandoned, sold like a commodity or had something stolen from them. They hurt from the loss of their original family. I'm curious if these feelings are caused by nature or nurture. Basically, is it the knowledge that they are adopted that brings on these feelings or is it something deeper like a biological reaction to the loss of their birthmother?

I can imagine that the knowledge that you are adopted may make you feel that your mother didn't want you or that you are missing out on a bond with people who are related to you by blood, etc. I'm wondering though that if you didn't know that you were adopted would you still have these feelings? Or is the knowledge of the adoption irrelevant and it is in fact biological and subconscious reasons behind the feelings? Is there a biological bond between mother and baby which would cause the baby emotional harm if that bond is severed? Does it matter if it's the bio mom that takes care of the baby or is an adoptive mother who is there from the beginning (someone who were the main caretaker from birth) equal for the baby? Does the lack of a biological connection to the parents subconsciously cause problems as the child grows up?

What do you guys think? Does the emotional response to the adoption differ between kids who know they are adopted and those who don't? Is it nature or nurture?
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Old 09-21-2012, 06:01 AM
 
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All good questions... & all I can say is that there can only be a very complex answer. It just isn't as simple as nurture vs nature. Someone posted a long list of all the literature that discusses these issues for adoptees & I'm sure they will post them again for you when they come around. The first thing that comes to mind is Nancy Verrier, who has studied the impact of infants being separated from their mothers & wrote a great book about the multiple ways adoptees can be impacted by adoption (book is called The Primal Wound).

Here are my thoughts & some of my experiences:

Newborns rely on their mothers for survival & can discern the difference between their mother & other caretakers (via smell, milk, heartbeat, voice, etc), so being separated from the mother is in fact a very traumatic experience. Even with a constant, loving caretaker the infant understands they are not with their mother & this puts the infant in a heightened state of awareness (with increased stress hormone levels) that is not healthy to endure for extended periods of time.

I was separated from my mother after five days. According to my doctors/aparents I had very typical signs of PTSD: anxiety, insomnia, depression, dissociation, hyper-vigilance, & apparently for nearly a year nothing could make me stop screaming/crying. Considering the rate at which an infant's brain develops, can you imagine how being in a constant state of fight or flight influences the way our brains form? This of course makes us more prone to things like anxiety, or depression in the future like with children or adults that experience other forms of trauma & PTSD. The difference is that I do not have any pre-trauma memories, so growing up I felt things like anxiety, insomnia, chronic depression were completely normal. I had no concept of living without those things & like most human beings I adapted.

This is where nurture comes in... a lack of nurture can certainly make conditions worse. If there is abuse, or aggression in the household, lack of love or affection, that definitely does compound these issues. However, even the best adoptive parents cannot simply "love the grief or trauma away."

Many adoptees do struggle with feelings of abandonment. No matter how you spin adoption in a positive light, most children will see through that effort & interpret adoption as abandonment (at least in the beginning while they are trying to understand what it all means). This is a normal part of the grieving process & it is healthy for children to work through these feelings, instead of having them denied (they loved you so much they gave you away! They didn't give you away, they placed you! You were a gift, etc).

Quote:
Does it matter if it's the bio mom that takes care of the baby or is an adoptive mother who is there from the beginning (someone who were the main caretaker from birth) equal for the baby?
Yes, it matters. No, an adoptive mom who is there from the beginning is not equal for the baby. But that does not mean our adoptive mothers do not become equally important to us! Sometimes more.

Last edited by thethreefoldme; 09-21-2012 at 06:52 AM..
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Old 09-21-2012, 06:22 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lizita View Post
Does the lack of a biological connection to the parents subconsciously cause problems as the child grows up?
Of course it can... anything that makes a child obviously different from everyone else can at the very least cause subconscious problems while growing up. A young child in a closed adoption will at some point probably wonder to themselves, "Why did everyone else's parents keep them? Do mine even think of me?" A teen might think, "Why did Suzy's single, young mom keep her, but mine didn't?" This is when dissociation or denial can kick in, because most of the time these questions are impossible to answer & can be accompanied by many conflicting, sometimes even paradoxical emotions that are hard to resolve even in adulthood.

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Does the emotional response to the adoption differ between kids who know they are adopted and those who don't?
I think late-discovery adoptees should be the ones to answer this question. I have heard from some they always felt different, always suspected, but other that did not. Still, if they suffered a trauma from being separated from their mother then they could struggle with things like attachment, anxiety, & depression without ever knowing why.

Last edited by thethreefoldme; 09-21-2012 at 06:44 AM..
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Old 09-21-2012, 06:26 AM
 
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This is the old Nature vs Nurture argument that has been around for years.....Thrown in w/ the emotional aspect of having been "given away" Some folks get through this if they have supportive, loving adopted parents that support their curiosity and help them understand that often the biological parents had to give them up to give them a better life....A Most loving act......
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Old 09-21-2012, 06:48 AM
 
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I think time is more important than biology in mother-child bonding. For example, a child starts to bond with its mother seconds after birth. Obviously, even adoptees who were adopted "at birth" miss out on this crucial timing with their adoptive parents. Needless to say, adoptees who have spent any amount of time in an orphanage or similar institutional settings missed out on it too. For me, personally, I am actually proud of my parents for adopting me, and feel like I have something that not all biological children have--the absolute secure knowledge that I was planned and my parents wanted me. I wasn't the unplanned result of a moment of passion for my adoptive parents. I'm not saying that is the case for all biological parents either, and I was obviously unplanned for my biological parents, but it is nice to know that my parents now jumped through all sorts of hoops just to have me. Most parents don't have to go through a home study to have a child--mine did.

Quote:
Originally Posted by thethreefoldme
Do you think this did not make us more prone to things like anxiety, or depression in the future like with children or adults that experience other forms of trauma & PTSD? The difference is that I do not have any pre-trauma memories, so growing up I felt things like anxiety, insomnia, chronic depression were completely normal. I had no concept of living without those things & like most human beings I adapted.
I have all of these. A lot of it is from trauma that I remember. But I do wonder if I was more prone to trauma because of my beginnings. I was abused in all four ways (emotional, verbal, physical, and sexual) over a period of 13 years by both men and women. I do wonder if I gave off a certain vibe because of my unstable beginnings that attracted abusers to me like flies to a lightbulb. I was abused by people in many situations where other children were not which is what leads me to consider the idea that I was possibly more vulnerable because I had already been neglected and abused in the orphanage. I have always lived with high levels of anxiety, even before any of the abuse post-adoption started. I'm so hyper-viligilant to this day that people comment on it every day. Some people think that it's cause of my blindness, but a lot of other blind and deaf blind people tell me I'm incredibly aware of my surroundings. I really do think it's an orphanage/abuse survivor thing (at least in my case). I still get flashbacks almost every day and every night (during the daytime they're more emotion-based and at nighttime they're more sensory-based).

I'm also the first to admit I have abandonment issues. I have always been unusual about my relationships. Usually I cling to people and then I drop them. I have no boundaries and then I put up too many. I trust too fast but then it doesn't take much for me to lose trust. I have tried for many years to try to have more healthy attachment patterns. I have gotten a lot better but it's still there. I don't like to think of myself as damaged, but rather that that's just a part of who I am because of my total life experiences. That isn't to say that I can't try to work on areas of weakness, but that I try to understand myself because it motivates me to improve rather than spiraling down a path of hopelessness and self-criticism.

Last edited by nimchimpsky; 09-21-2012 at 06:56 AM..
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Old 09-21-2012, 07:36 AM
 
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Originally Posted by nimchimpsky View Post
I think time is more important than biology in mother-child bonding. For example, a child starts to bond with its mother seconds after birth.
Bonding with the mother begins prior to being born. Studies have shown that newborns are familiar with their mother's heartbeat, their scent, the taste/smell of their milk, & their voices, & all of these things are what makes a newborn feel safe & secure in the world. To be separated from those things for an extended period of time causes newborns/infants great distress even with a single, stable caregiver.
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Old 09-21-2012, 07:59 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thethreefoldme View Post
Bonding with the mother begins prior to being born. Studies have shown that newborns are familiar with their mother's heartbeat, their scent, the taste/smell of their milk, & their voices, & all of these things are what makes a newborn feel safe & secure in the world. To be separated from those things for an extended period of time causes newborns/infants great distress even with a single, stable caregiver.
Oh I see. That makes sense.
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Old 09-21-2012, 08:00 AM
 
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The human psyche is so complex which is why this question even exists. I believe that it's both. There is a bond between the biological mother and child that doesn't exist elsewhere and can't be replicated. In my opinion, this type of bond doesn't exist with the biological father either. I believe it is the broken bond plus a combination of factors, such as conditions before you were adopted, nurturing style of adoptive parents, how well the child "meshes" with the adoptive family, and genetic predisposition, among others. Some children that were told later in life that they were adopted say they always knew something was different or missing.

I always knew I was adopted, so for me, I never felt that strong bond with my adoptive family and I do think it's biology as I do have that strong connection with my children. It's the only blood bond that I know and can compare to. I also grieve the loss of my bio family. I don't know why, but I never had the feeling that my bio mother didn't want me, or that she abandoned me. Recently I found my adoption history that states that I was with my mother for over a year and she passed away.

I also think the fact that I am Asian and my aparents white was an issue for me. I never felt like I belonged to them and always felt uncomfortable. I was constantly having to explain that I was adopted and people viewed me as the "poor orphan child" that my aparents "rescued". I was constantly told how "lucky" I was and how "grateful" I should be to even be here. To me as a child, this translated to I should be grateful to even exist.

I hope someone has some study references regarding this as it would be interesting to see. I only speak from the reference point of my own adoption.
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Old 09-21-2012, 11:46 AM
 
203 posts, read 200,341 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JanND View Post
This is the old Nature vs Nurture argument that has been around for years.....Thrown in w/ the emotional aspect of having been "given away" Some folks get through this if they have supportive, loving adopted parents that support their curiosity and help them understand that often the biological parents had to give them up to give them a better life....A Most loving act......
Unfortunately, there are lots of adoptees who do not have supportive, loving adoptive parents. And that "better life" can include physical/sexual/emotional abuse at the hands of their adopters. For this reason, I am not all that fond of the "better life" rationale. Adoption does not guarantee any kind of life for the adoptee other than a different one to that they would have with their original family. I am also not fond of the "most loving act" rationale. This rationale never made sense to me as an adopted child and still doesn't really. As a child, I thought "uh, if my mother loved me, she would have kept me."

I would consider an adoptive parent to be supportive and loving if they made an effort to acknowledge the adopted child's reality and feelings. Instead of speaking for the original mother and offering romanticized notions of the truth, adoptive parents could say something like "Wow, I bet it must feel really confusing sometimes to be adopted. I'm sorry that your mother is not raising you. Would you like to talk about how you feel?" This would let the adoptee know that his or her feelings are open for discussion and that their parents want to support them in making sense of their reality.
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Old 09-21-2012, 12:08 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lizita View Post
What do you guys think? Does the emotional response to the adoption differ between kids who know they are adopted and those who don't? Is it nature or nurture?
I am not a Late Discovery Adoptee (LDA). I was informed of my adopted status at age 5 and even then it was a total world-rocker. The LDAs who I know had feelings of being somehow different of not quite fitting in. This is because as human beings, we ARE our natures. All of us. And it is my feeling that it is parent's job (adoptive or bio) to nurture a child's nature. Adoptees come into their adoptive families already programmed in the nature department. As such, adoptive parents must take a unique approach to parenting in order to nurture a child whose nature did not originate in the adoptive family. It is my feeling that the most successful of adoptive parents are the ones who find a way to step back and observe the child they are raising so that they can encourage the child's nature to blossom.

If our natures are nurtured in an honest, open and communicative environment, we have a better chance at feeling secure in ourselves. Adoptees who are not informed of their adopted status are not given this opportunity. Their role in the family is founded on a lie. And if that lie is uncovered (and it will eventually), the sense of betrayal can emotionally immobilize the adoptee.
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