Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Adoptees more likely to be troubled

This story from TIME makes me so mad! It is about one of my passions, adoption. There's nothing wrong factually with the story(as far as I know), I just don't like to read anything negative about the subject because I know several families who have adopted domestically and internationally who have had wonderful experiences.

A new study shows being adopted approximately doubles the odds of an adolescent being diagnosed with a behavior or emotional problem. Furthermore, the findings open up the question of what's behind that increased risk — adoptive parents or genetics?

Americans adopt about 120,000 children each year, and the vast majority grows up happy and healthy. Yet researchers at the University of Minnesota have found that a small minority of those kids — about 14 percent — are diagnosed with a behavioral disorder or have contact with a mental health professional as adolescents, or about twice the odds that non-adopted teens face. "Despite the popularity of adoption, there is persistent concern that adopted children may be at a heightened risk for mental health or adjustment problems," the study's authors write in a report released this week.

That's in line with what previous adoption research has said for many years. What this new study challenges are the reasons behind this phenomenon. In the past, most researchers have dismissed the adoptees' disproportionate number of behavioral or mental health problems as a result of adoptive parents' demographic trends. That is, since people who adopt tend to be wealthier and more educated, they are likelier to access psychiatric care if their kids exhibit symptoms of, say, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Also, through the adoption process, these parents are generally more familiar with mental health services than non-adoptive parents. Yet after studying more than a thousand children, both adopted and not, Margaret Keyes warns that assumption may be flawed. The Minnesota psychologist and her colleagues found that disparity could be due as often to innate factors such as perinatal care or his birth parents' genes. "The deleterious effects may quite possibly have come before the adoption ever took place," Keyes, the study's lead researcher, says.

Another surprising conclusion that the Minnesota study produced was the fact that children adopted from within the U.S. are more prone to behavioral disorders than those adopted from overseas. Some 40,000 children worldwide annually emigrate from more than 100 countries through adoption, a trend increasing rapidly in the U.S. since the 1970s. But these foreign adoptees are far more likely to internalize their problems, suffering more commonly from depression or separation anxiety disorders. Domestic adoptees, on the other hand, tend to act out.

While consistent with adolescents studied in both North America and Western Europe, Keyes says, this finding "goes against preconceived notions that kids from foreign cultures would have a harder time adapting to new families."

Despite her study's findings, Keyes is quick to stress that there is nothing in them that should discourage parents from adopting. "Males are likelier to have behavior issues," she says. "But no one is overly concerned about having boys." Still, Keyes advises adoptive parents to be on the lookout for problem behaviors and to rely on the network of mental health providers they built up when applying to adopt their children in the first place.
Adoption is a wonderful thing. I am so blessed to know so many people who have helped kids. I do hope this research won't make someone decide not to adopt.

-NewsAnchorMom Jen


Diane Vespa said...

Jen, thanks for writing about this topic. As wonderful and joyous as adoption can be, it still involves grief and loss for the child and the birthmother. No matter how well loved the child is by their adoptive family, at some point in their lives they will question the circumstances of their adoption and their own personal worth. There is an outstanding book that should be required learning for all adoptive parents.
Here is a link:
Parents must be willing to recognize the special emotional needs of the adopted child.

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