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The impact of adoption on mental health

On Behalf of | Apr 17, 2023 | Adoption, Family law

Every year, thousands of couples in Texas expand their families through adoption. While many people consider this a joyous occasion, experts report that adopted children often deal with numerous mental health issues following their adoption.

Common mental health issues

Studies indicate that adopted children are more likely to receive a psychiatric diagnosis than non-adoptees. Heredity certainly plays a role in this, but so does the trauma associated with the adoption process. Some common mental health diagnoses among adopted children include:

  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • ADD or ADHD
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Disenfranchised grief

Death and divorce are usually considered “normal” sources of grief. However, disenfranchised grief is very real among adoptees. While the adoptive parents rejoice about the addition to their families, adoptees may continue grieving the loss of their parents for quite some time.

Social messaging tells these children that they should be happy about their adoption, resulting in disenfranchised grief. Even if the child went into the adoptive system for a “good reason,” they still must process their loss.

Finding an identity

Psychologists and sociologists agree that it is harder for adopted children to figure out who they are in the world than it is for biological children. This becomes even more common in transracial adoptions. When an adopted child doesn’t know anything about his or her genetic makeup, it can feel more difficult to find their “true identity.”

Suicide statistics

According to at least one study, adopted children are four times more likely to eventually commit suicide than non-adoptees. Experts blame this on a number of factors including early trauma, institutional care and attachment issues. Other possible causes include genetic susceptibility to mental illness and addiction.

While adoption is a beautiful process that completes families and provides stability to children who wouldn’t experience it any other way, there are far-reaching mental aspects associated with the process. Adopted children can certainly thrive in their new environments, but they may experience challenges that other children don’t.