Adoptees deal with a range of difficult emotions throughout their life, leading to a variety of personal problems. Even though adoptees may be told at an early age what specific problems they can expect to face, it makes these issues no less traumatic. In their paper, “Lifelong Issues in Adoption,” researchers Deborah N. Silverstein and Sharon Kaplan identify seven psychological issues with which adoptees struggle.
Loss of parents and/or siblings for an adoptee creates an open wound, according to Sliverstein and Kaplan, because adoptees cannot forget the separation. This makes it more difficult for them to deal with any subsequent losses and to react more strongly to potential losses.
If an adopted child’s birth parents are alive, they feel rejected because their parents gave them away. During the waiting period to be adopted, children with living or deceased birth parents can feel rejected each time they are not chosen by prospective parents. This can lead to adoptees magnifying future rejections or perceived rejections, such as not being picked for a sports team or being turned down for a date. Children may even provoke rejection out of a low sense of self-esteem.
Guilt and Shame
In order to try and understand or make sense of their rejection, children may make themselves the cause of the rejection, leading to guilt and shame. These feelings come from a belief by the adoptee that something must have been wrong with her to cause the rejection.
In order to protect adoptees, adoptive parents may try to minimize an adoptee’s sense of loss, leading to the child putting off the grieving process normally associated with loss. This can lead to behavioral problems as adoptees get older, including depression, aggression or substance abuse. According to a research study done in 1998 by George Fox University, “Adoptees are more likely to have difficulties with drug and alcohol abuse, as well as, eating disorders, attention deficit disorder, infertility, suicide and untimely pregnancies.”
Because they were rejected by one clan and not born into their adopted family, adopted children often face identity crises. This is exacerbated in cases where the adoptee cannot identify his birth parents. This leads many adoptees to, ” . . . join sub-cultures, run away, become pregnant, or totally reject their families,” according to Silverstein and Kaplan.
Due to the perceived rejection by the birth mother, adoptees struggle to trust or get close to anyone, in part because of their shame, and in part because of a fear of rejection. This intimacy issue is more keenly seen in relationships with the opposite sex.
Since they had no control over their adoption process, adopted children frequently cede an inordinate amount of control and authority to their adoptive parents and other authority figures. This can lead to extremes in control issues, such as power struggles with parents or a sense of a lack of responsibility for their actions.