Adoption is a long process that involves several parties. Adoption can be a successful and enjoyable process, however, there are adverse psychological effects that can affect the birth mother, the adopted parents and the adoptee.
These experiences and challenges can have long and lasting effects on the birth mother and the adoptee. The birth mother may experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms in dealing with the loss of her child, while the adopted child may have issues with identity and intimacy, as his or her being stems from the loss of their birth mother. The adopted parents face their own unique challenges in terms of bonding with their adopted child.
The adoption process is usually initiated on the birth mother’s side, in an environment of crises and loss.
Adoption and Birth Mothers’ Psyche
Adoption is a difficult decision for a birth mother to make, but like the child she placed, birth mothers also face several ongoing psychological effects, resulting from placing her child or children for adoption. The birth mother may develop symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, including depression, anxiety, and succumb to drugs and alcohol to deal with the pain. This can be further impacted by the burden of secrecy, in areas where social and cultural implications force birth mothers to keep quiet about their experiences and feelings after participating in an adoption. The birth mother may also experience loss of identity, as her new title of “mother” has been stripped away and the role she was physically and psychologically preparing herself for nearly a year is suddenly gone with the decision to place her child for adoption.
No doubt, adoption is an attractive option to would-be parents who are unable to conceive or are looking to expand their family, however new adopters may also experience some psychological effects of adoption. Failures in mother-child bonding may occur, as the fetus did not grow in the mother’s uterus. Fathers may fail to accept the new child as there is no genetic bond between them. Indeed, there is no biological link between the child and the parents and no continuation of the family’s genetics. This may make it difficult for the adopted parents to accept their new role as parents to a child not born of them.
But perhaps the greatest psychological burden falls on the adoptee. Humans feel the need to be part of something, a place where they fit perfectly into. If the adoptee grows up in a family where the discussion surrounding his or her adoption is closed, they are being raised in secrecy and deception. This can be a very lonely and isolating feeling that may trigger other psychological effects, such as issues with intimacy later in life. If the child is raised in a home where secrecy and denial surrounding his or her adoption is the norm, this may have the greatest impact on the adoptee in his or her search for their own identity and their place within the adopted family.
This lack of originating identity may also negatively impact any intimacy the child will want to experience in the future. This is because people who have suffered a significant loss in their lives have a difficult time getting close to anyone for fear that they will lose the person with whom they are intimate and suffer yet another loss.
The psychological effects of adoption can be difficult to manage and can have adverse effects throughout the lives of the birth mother, the adopted parents and the adoptee. Psychological issues for the birth mother and adoptee can stem from an environment of secrecy and denial, where the adoption process is not to be discussed due to societal or family pressures. If left untreated, these psychological effects can lead to negative behaviors that affect the lives of the birth mother and adoptee.
The adopted parents may also face challenges, such as bonding with the adoptee and integrating him or her into the family. Although adoption may be considered for the well-being of the child, there is no doubt that adoption has some serious psychological ramifications, for all parties involved, which need to be dealt with if all everyone is to have a successful and well-adjusted life.
This article was written by Mary Schultz, who is an adoptee and understands how taxing adoption can be on the psyche of those involved.