A phenomenological study of adoption, attachment, and identity formation. (2023)

The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine how eight adoptees viewed the impact of adoption on attachment and identity formation, which in turn would emphasize the need for competency standards for mental health professionals. Most adoption studies have focused on comparisons between adoptees and non-adoptes or on the post-adoption needs of adoptive parents. Past research shows an increased representation of adoptees seeking mental health services for a variety of reasons, but also that mental health professionals are not adequately trained to work with specific adoption-related issues. Eight people who were adopted at birth (or nearly so) were interviewed about their lived experiences, and seven themes emerged:Loyalty, feelings of "otherness", identity, likes in people, relational/attachment issues, secrets and lies, and experience with mental health professionals.The relevance of the research results and implications for professional competence in mental health are discussed, and suggestions for future research are included.


Now a man from the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became

pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a good boy,

she hid it for three months. But when she couldn't hide it anymore, she

I took a papyrus basket and covered it with tar and pitch. She put the child

in the basket and put it among the reeds on the bank of the Nile.

sister stayed at a distance to see what would happen to him. of pharaoh

daughter went down to the Nile to bathe. She saw the basket among the

reeds, opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him.

to him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” he said. Then his sister asked

Pharaoh's daughter: Shall I fetch one of the Hebrew women to

breastfeed the baby for you? "Yes, go," she replied. So the girl went and

there's the baby's mother. Pharaoh's daughter said to him, "Take this baby and

create it for me, and I will reward you. So the woman took the baby and

took care of him When the boy grew up, she took him to Pharaoh's house.

daughter and he became her son.- Exodus 2:1-10

Moses was adopted and throughout his life struggled with elements of his identity and the inconsistency between who he was expected to be and who he thought he was. Born a Jew, adopted by the pharaoh's daughter, and raised in Egypt, Moses was on his way to becoming the pharaoh of Egypt. However, he could not stand the abuse the Egyptians inflicted on Jewish slaves. Moses dealt with the identity issues caused by his adoption by renouncing the throne and subsequently leading the Jewish people out of Egypt and oppression (Cohen, 2003).

Biology, as it relates to heredity and genetics, is important to identity and identity development (Strauss, 1994; Wegar, 1997). While there are a myriad of reasons why biology is important, for an adoptee, the psychological need to know about heritage is a necessary part of identity formation. However, information about ownership, in most cases, was not accessible to adoptees (Sachdev, 1989). Grotevant, Dunbar, Kohler and Esau (2000) state: "The adoptive identity cannot be understood without placing it in the context of social attitudes towards kinship" (p. 381). “Kinship” is defined in American cultural terms as directly related to blood and biological ties to our family, and the kinship provided by an adoptive family (regardless of how close the adoptee is to the adoptive family) is fictitious (Modell, 1997). . , pg. Four five).

Currently, there is much societal emphasis on genealogy and genetics, but little access for an adoptee to be part of this trend (Carangelo, 2011). In situations where there is limited information on the adoption process, the adoption is said to be “closed” (Muller & Perry, 2001; Samuels, 2001; Sorosky, Baran, & Pannor, 2008). Closed birth records and secrecy raise a barrier for adoptees that can make genealogy and genetics another hurdle in identity development. Advances in medicine have made the general public aware of the possible genetic risks they may carry, while adoptees cannot afford this information (Muller & Perry, 2001). However, there have always been barriers for adoptees to seek information about their biological origin (Strauss, 1994). Secrecy surrounded the adoption by limiting information that could identify the adoptee or birth parents. Lifton (1994) defines a closed adoption as one in which an agency and/or the state in which the adoption was completed retains all of an individual's identifying information. In contrast, open adoption follows a spectrum that includes sharing information from names and the occasional exchange of photos to full disclosure and continued contact with the individual (Grotevant & McRoy, 1998; Modell, 2002). This secrecy and lack of information in closed adoptions means that researchers are unable to estimate a ratio of "closed" to "open" adoptions (those in which varying degrees of identifying information are made available to all parties, depending on the wishes of both parties). the parts). . biological parents and adoptive parents) (Grotevant & McRoy, 1998).

For those who have been openly embraced, the recent popularity of social media sources can facilitate relationships and reunions, providing access to information that was previously unattainable (Haralambie, 2013). Social networks allowmoreessentially choosing who they want to contact. Unadopted people can discover where they come from and see how their identities have been influenced over time (Modell, 2002). While social media improves relationships between non-adoptes and those participating in open adoptions, the access provided by the use of social media is limited for those participating in closed adoptions.

The conflict between open and closed adoption is intensified by reality television shows that sensationalize and exploit members of the "adoption triad" (ie, the adoptee, the adoptive family, and all biological family members). ) through staged meetings that often end disastrously (Sorosky, Baran, & Pannor, 2008). While in some ways drawing public attention to the issue of adoption and identity development, the trend on social media and television clearly contradicts the traditional stance of the American adoption system, which has valued confidentiality (Sorosky et al., 2008 ).

The importance of identity has been a focus of attention in the social sciences for decades (Grotevant et al., 2000). Erikson's developmental theory emphasizes the importance of attachment, as well as psychosocial crises, in identity formation (Erikson, 1968). As there are often struggles for the adoptee in forming healthy bonds, there are also struggles in forming a healthy identity. Feeney, Passamore, and Peterson (2007) found that adoptees are underrepresented in terms of secure (healthy) attachments. A study by Borders, Penny and Portnoy (2000) identifies that adoptees are more fearful and feel less support from family or friends. Feney et al. (2007) report that although the relationship with adoptive parents is important, biological relatives also play a role in the development of a healthy identity and secure attachment. In addition, adoption can be a risk factor for relational difficulties through insecure attachment.

Attachment theory emphasizes the formation, maintenance, and growth of relationships (Gray, 2002). Attachment theory suggests that a fundamental purpose of a family is to support the development of its members as well as the functioning of the family as a whole (Hughes, 2007). Bowlby (1969, cited in Erdman & Caffery, 2015) saw attachment behavior as part of a coherent system of behaviors that culminate in a close relationship between a child and their caregiver.

The quality of parent/child attachment becomes a guide for all future relationships. Loving, responsive parents raise children who form secure, trusting relationships as adults, while children without access to loving caregivers are less able to form healthy adult relationships (Gray, 2002). Bowlby (1969) believed that attachment patterns correspond to a child's experience with an attachment figure (parent or caregiver). Attachment quality is directly related to the consistency of the infant/caregiver relationship, and anything that breaks this bond leads to a greater likelihood of developing an insecure attachment (Bowlby, 1988). Although no one can say for sure when attachment to the biological mother begins, most mental health professionals agree that it begins at birth (Brodzinsky, Schechter, & Henig, 1992; Gray, 2002). Bowlby (1969) described a four-stage attachment model that begins at birth. Still others believe that the bond between mother and child begins before birth and that the relationship is well defined by birth (Lifton, 1994; Verrier, 1993).

Identity formation is an ongoing process that, according to Erikson (1980), begins very early in childhood but continues throughout life. Adolescence is a time when parental values ​​and contributions are examined and the notion of “Who am I” becomes important for self-discovery (Erikson, 1980). For an adoptee in a closed adoption, identity formation takes on a chameleon-like quality because there is no congruence in the information available to an adoptee about who he or she is (Brodzinsky et al., 1992). Adding to the inconsistency is the altered birth certificate (even though the adoptee knows he was born to different parents) and the idea that the adoptive parents really wanted the child (but the birth parents didn't). Conflicting information, along with the dearth of biological information available in most adoptions, present enormous obstacles in forming an adoptee's identity (Brodzinsky et al., 1992; Wegar, 1997). Difficulty forming identity can result in an "identity crisis," which can lead to a greater degree of psychological and interpersonal difficulty (Erikson, 1968, p. 17). Some adoptees may accept inconsistencies as an intrinsic part of the adoption process, while others struggle with disparity. These individuals are even more motivated to try to piece together the biological pieces that will help build a broader identity (Brodzinsky et al., 1992; Feeney et al., 2007).

When unable to cope with an identity crisis on their own, adoptees may seek the services of a mental health professional. Therapy can be very helpful as long as the adoptee can find a mental health professional who has been adequately trained to deal with the variety of problems an adoptee faces (Wegar, 1997). Many families report seeking help from multiple therapists before finding one who understands adoption issues. That is, if they can find one (Riley, 2009). Few college textbooks contain much information on adoption issues (Janus, 1997; Sass & Henderson, 2000; Stolley & Hall, 1994; Weir, Fife, Whiting, & Blazewick, 2008). Textbooks are important sources of what is actually taught in university courses and second only to the professor in terms of disseminating information to students (Geersten, 1977). Indeed, if the topic of adoption is mentioned in a textbook, it is likely to be pathology oriented (Brodzinsky, Smith, & Brodzinsky, 1998; Javier, Baden, Biafora, & Camacho-Gingerich, 2007), meaning that the issue of adoption is often addressed in relation to behavior problems (Kirschner, 2006).

College-level counseling instructors, the other relevant source of information in higher education, have not been trained to work with adoption issues and are not teaching students about adoption and family issues (Glenn, 1997; Penny, Borders, and Portnoy, 2007) . ). The dearth of information may send students the message that this topic is unrelated to the study of families (Fisher, 2003), even though an estimated 100 million Americans are affected in some way by adoption (Siegel, 2013).

According to the United States Census Bureau 2010 (2012), between 2% and 4% of the US population is adopted. The actual number is likely much higher because the census questionnaire counted children adopted within the family but did not include adopted adults or stepchildren. Nor did it include informal adoptions, such as those that have no legal basis but are treated as adoptions. Informal adoption often includes grandparents or other relatives who become the children's primary caregivers and act as parents to the child. In contrast, it is estimated that up to 15% of people in residential treatment centers or psychiatric hospitalizations are adopted (Brodzinsky, 2008; Kirschner, 2006). There is conflicting information about the disproportionate representation of adoptees in residential and hospital treatment centers in the United States; however, all estimates indicate that adoptees often exceed the norm for the general population to be in a treatment facility (Feeney et al., 2007; Grotevant, 2008; Ingersoll, 1997; Janus, 1997; Lifton, 1994; Moyer & Juang, 2011). Current research indicates that adoptive families are two to five times more likely to seek mental health services and that there are more cases of post-adoption mental health diagnoses than non-adoptive families (Howard, Smith, & Ryan, 2004; Hussey, Falletta, et al., 2012).

Although adoption did not begin with the biblical story of Moses, it is impossible to know where it really began. It has existed in some form throughout history and cultures. In the 17th and 18th centuries, adoption took the form of apprenticeship and slavery. The British introduced a form of adoption to the United States at this time; orphaned children were rounded up and sent to the United States to provide slave labor for the colonies (Sorosky, Baran, and Pannor, 2008). In the 19th century, adoption gained great popularity in the United States because it provided adopters with heirs (Terrell & Modell, 1994). The most modern version of adoption began with the Minnesota Act of 1917, when state laws were enacted to seal birth records. In theory, records were sealed to protect the adoptee from any stigma associated with their biological parents, rather than to protect the identity of the biological parents (Barth & Miller, 2000; Muller & Perry, 2007; Strauss, 1994). In addition, legal documentation was required at that time. In many states, loose records were kept, and instead, the adoptee's natal identity was not sealed; this was a more gradual practice that spread across the country (Grotevant & McRoy, 1998; Howe & Feast, 2003; Samuels, 2001).

In the 1940s, laws that concealed the identity of the adoptee became widespread, and this practice remained largely unchanged until the 1980s (Carp, 1998). After World War II, the number of families adopting children increased dramatically as middle-class Americans began to form families. The United States entered a period of prosperity after the war. Orphanages that were overcrowded and plagued with disease were emptied as families opened their homes and hearts for adoption. It seemed like a perfect solution at the time, and nobody was really thinking about the possible problems that could arise. Along with the increase in American families adopting children, there has also been a gradual change in attitudes towards adoption (Fessler, 2006). Adoption was not a common way of raising a family, and now middle-class Americans were using the services of adoption agencies to secure physically healthy babies of normal intelligence (Fessler, 2006). Hollywood stars were adopting children and talking about it in the news, and healthy white babies became a commodity (Herman, 2002).

The availability of birth control in the mid-20th century reduced the number of healthy, desirable babies (babies free of physical or mental defects) in this country and opened the door to global adoption as an alternative (Carp, 1998; Fessler , 2006 ). ). The availability of babies for adoption was also affected by the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973, which legalized abortion. In recent years, it is more common for older children to be adopted and family diversity has become more accepted (Grotevant & McRoy, 1998; Samuels 2001; Verrier, 1993).

The concept of open adoption began to gain traction during the last decades of the 20th century, but a trend towards full disclosure of family information is becoming more widely acceptable (Grotevant & McRoy, 1998; Samuels, 2001). Birth parents now often maintain active roles in the lives of the children they give up for adoption. However, for the millions of post-World War II adoptees for whom family and ancestral information is unavailable, current openness trends make no difference. It is still difficult for those born between 1946 and 1964, a group commonly referred to as "Baby Boomers", to access information about who they are and who/where they come from. For this group, adoption records often remain sealed and the information-finding process can be arduous (Auth & Zaret, 1986; Penny, Borders & Portnoy, 2007).

In the early 1960s, the search for ethnic roots became popular, particularly among immigrants in the United States (Lifton, 1994; Powell & Afifi, 2005; Strauss, 1994). At the same time, adoptees began to reject a system that needed a barrier between the adoptee and any biological information (Wegar, 1997). During the 1970s, several events began to change the way society viewed identity. In 1974, Alex Haley published his Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece,Roots, the saga of an American family.statewas made into an Emmy-winning television miniseries in 1977, with ratings surpassing the popularity of any television show at the time it aired (Haley, 1974). Timestateseemed to generate public interest in the biological component of identity formation, the first wave of adoption activists initiated efforts to reform laws requiring the sealing of birth records. Magazines began publishing public interest adoption stories. The “quest narrative,” which is the personal story of an adoptee's search for information about their origins (Strauss, 1994) and the biological parents' experiences with adoption, has led to the formation of groups such as the Association of Adopted Liberation Movement ( ALMA), which was formed in 1971. ALMA's purpose is to tell adoption stories, help people in their search for biological identity, and provide support to all members of the adoption triad (Carp, 2002; Lifton, 1994; Modell, 2002).

In the 1980s and 1990s, television talk shows began to gain popularity for tackling real and often controversial topics. Adoption meetings, sometimes in the form of surprise encounters, were met with mixed feelings by an audience that had not previously glimpsed the complex relationships that are formed through adoption (Fessler, 2006; Sorosky, Baran, & Pannor, 1984; Triseliotis, Feast, and Kyle, 2005). While the intent was to entertain the television audience, much damage was done to both the adoptees and birth parents because there was no real concern for negotiating reunions. No one was prepared for the myriad emotional detritus that these voyeuristic meetings created, and disastrous meetings were often witnessed by the public that attended them (Modell, 2002; Muller & Perry, 2001; Wegar, 1997). The fallout from poorly planned televised meetings further fueled the argument in favor of keeping identification records sealed. Despite and because of this, the 1990s brought more national attention to adoption and related issues than ever before in the United States (Fessler, 2006; Grotevant & McRoy, 1998).

The years from 1990 to 2013 brought many changes and challenges to the field of adoption. Same-sex couples and single people can now easily adopt children; this was unheard of in previous years (Brodzinsky & Perman, 2014; Modell, 2002; Moyer & Juang, 2011). Facebook and other social networking sites made it easy to access information, but they also presented new problems. Classified advertising has become a channel to facilitate adoption, as both prospective and biological parents advertise in publications and on the Internet (Modell, 2002). The popularity of sites like Ancestry.com and genealogy forums has sparked worldwide interest in biological identity. Ancestry.com has five billion records and is among the top five paid membership sites online (http://ancestry.com/press/pressrelease). Genealogy has become a popular hobby among all age groups, in large part due to the amount of information easily accessible on the Internet. Understanding someone's biological history is universally important, and this is true for adoptees as well. However, adoptees are often only able to form a partial identity, usually that of their adoptive family. How does this match the high number of adoptees who end up in residential treatment centers? While the purpose of this study is not to explore this phenomenon, the inconsistency suggests that while identity formation is crucial to healthy emotional development, adoption adds layers of complexity to the process (Fall, Roaten, & Eberts, 2012). ; Grotevant, Dunbar, Kohler and Esau, 2000; Muller and Perry, 2001).

Moses spent his entire life solidifying his identity. He went back to his people, the Jews, which is where he believed he belonged (Exodus 2:1-10Holy Bible NIV, 2012) Identity is as critical for adoptees as it is for non-adoptes, and the ability to form healthy relationships is highly dependent on identity formation (Brodzinsky et al., 1992; Gray, 2002). In order to better understand the complexities of the formation of the adoptee's identity, the following questions are asked: (1) What are the experiences lived by the adoptees in the formation of their identity and healthy bonds? (2) How do adoptees think mental health professionals can help with attachment issues and identity formation?

The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences, thoughts and feelings of adoptees in forming identity and bonds, the importance of biological history in forming identity, and finally, to explore how adoptees think that mental health professionals can work more effectively. effective with the adoption triad. .

Definition of terms

AdoptionIt is the legal procedure by which an adult takes another adult or minor in the relationship as a child and thereby acquires the rights and incurs the responsibilities of a parent in relation to that adult or minor” (Modell, 2002, p. 5) . More specifically, it is placing another person in your own family and raising them as your own child, with all the legal rights and responsibilities accorded to all family members (Carp, 2002).

biological parentsare the biological parents of a child given up for adoption. At one time, biological parents were known as "natural" parents. This terminology changed in the 1970s as it was considered offensive to adoptive parents (Sorosky, Baran, & Pannor, 2008).

Himadoption triadis defined as the adoptee, the biological parents and the adoptive parent. It is also known as the “adoption triangle” (Lifton, 1994). The concept of a tripartite relationship gained prominence in the mid-1970s, a time when the debate on sealed records intensified (Carp, 1998).

identifying informationconsists of data that may allow adoptees to get in touch with their family of origin. This information usually consists of the names and addresses of the birth parents at the time parental rights ended (Carp, 1998).

non-identifiable informationThese are data that would not allow the adoptee to locate any member of his biological family. It usually includes a vague medical history of the birth parents, ethnicity, occupation, religious background, and a variety of other facts (this varies by state) that do not identify the birth parents but do provide information (Carp, 1998).

Eopen adoptionIt is an adoption in which various levels of biological information are made available to the adoptee. Open adoption gained popularity in the 1980s and greatly changed the adoption process by allowing adoptees access, but it was not a good change. For example, questions about the motivation of biological parents can be confusing if biological parents are present in the adoptee's life (Brodzinsky et al., 1992).

ANclosed adoptionit is essentially the traditional American model of adoption in which all identifying information about the biological origin of the adoptee is legally sealed. An amended birth certificate is issued, showing the names of the adoptive parents and omitting anything related to the biological parents (Brodzinsky et al., 1992). The adoptee's identity must begin with the amended birth certificate (Lifton, 1994). Often, original birth records can only be accessed by court order (Carp, 1998).

Identityit has many definitions, but it can be loosely thought of as all that makes up the self. It is “something so big and apparently so obvious that to demand a definition would seem almost petty” (Erikson, 1968, p. 15).

Adjunctit is a deep and enduring bond that connects one person to another across time and space (Ainsworth, 1973; Bowlby, 1969). Attachment is important for forming and maintaining healthy emotional relationships. It impacts and is impacted by identity formation (Brodzinsky et al., 1992).

mental health professionalscan be described as anyone who offers services with the aim of improving an individual's mental health (Reitz & Watson, 1992). This includes social workers, psychologists, family therapists or psychiatrists.

ANresearch narrativeis the story of how an adoptee finds information that leads to the identification of birth parents. It can also be how the biological parent locates a biological child (Lifton, 1994).


in allwethere is a hunger, at the core, to know our heritage. Without

this enriching knowledge, there is an empty desire, no matter what happens

our achievements in life.— Alex Haley

Ideally, research on adoption issues should continue to move towards a more comprehensive understanding of the impact that the adoption process has on the adoptee in relation to attachment and identity formation (Brodzinsky, 2013). A considerable amount of research on adoption has focused on solving potential problems faced by biological parents, adoptive parents, and the adoptee (Brodzinsky, Schechter, and Henig, 1992; Carp, 1998; Dennis, 2014; Grotevant and McElroy, 1998; Gray, 2002 ). Such studies often focus on the existence of certain common adoption issues, but few studies address ways for adoptive and adoptive parents to find professional guidance and/or support when issues related to attachment and relationship formation arise. identity (Javier, Baden, Biafora, & Camacho-Gingerich, 2007; Kirschner, 2006). Furthermore, most mental health professionals are ill-equipped to deal with adoption issues that can masquerade as other mental health issues (Javier et al., 2007; Kirschner, 2006).

Furthermore, most studies dealing with adoption issues do not suggest or support the idea that we cannot say with certainty whether attachment begins at the birth of a baby or is already well established by the time the baby is born (Bretherton, 1992; Verrier , 1993; 2003). Brandon, Pitts, Denton, Stringer, & Evans (2009) state that more research on maternal-fetal attachment is needed, as there are many studies on human relationships that point to the relevance of this theory.

introduction to adoption

Broadly speaking, adoption is the act of taking a child from other parents legally as one's own child (Merriam-Webster, 2014). The central principle of the American adoption process is “like a parent”, which means that an adopted child has the same status as a biological child (Modell, 2002, p. 5). Therefore, by law, all of the adoptee's identity and relationship information is transformed into that of the adoptive parents, and birth certificates are modified to reflect this transformation.

“Adoption tells unusual stories about how children, adults and families navigate common experiences of love and loss, identity and belonging” (Herman, 2008, p. 1). The adoption landscape is as complex as life in general, and its daily impact on the lives of American families is far more significant than the statistics used to represent adoption suggest (Herman, 2008; Pertman, 2001). Many societal factors have affected the practice of adoption since the first American adoption laws were passed in Massachusetts in 1851, including Americans' views of what constitutes a family.

“Adoption is a crucial long-term institution in virtually all societies, but unlike others, in Western societies it is also closely associated with secrecy” (Triseliotis, Feast, & Kyle, 2005, p. 1). type 20aAs the century progressed, secrecy in adoption became increasingly challenged, first by adoptees and later by biological parents who were interested in the lives of children who had given up (Modell, 2005). In fact, the advent of the Internet brought about a change in the concept of secrecy, as records of virtually everything became accessible to anyone with a computer (Modell, 2002). Although the concept of adoption is generally seen as positive, adoption creates "invisible" relationships between individuals who are not biologically related (Carp, 1998). This relationship has often required biological information to be withheld, leaving many adoptees feeling insecure about who they really are.

Adoption has somehow been referenced in historical literature since the beginning of civilization (Brodzinsky & Palacios, 2005). Recent statistics estimate that about 2.3% of the US population is adopted (US Census, 2010), and that includes stepparent adoption. It is virtually impossible to determine how many families are affected by adoption in any way, and statistics vary widely. In general, adoption is considered a positive experience for all involved, but there are factors that can affect successful adoption outcomes. Minimizing confidentiality is the healthiest approach for all members of the adoption triad, and this includes accessing biological information for the adoptee (Triseliotis et al., 2005).

History of adoption in the United States

Adoption is an institution that has evolved rapidly in the United States in recent decades (Brooks, Simmel, Wind, and Barth, 2005). early 20'saIn the 20th century, there was a serious problem in urban areas due to the large number of homeless children (Palacios & Brodzinsky, 2010). Simultaneously, there was a prejudice against adoption in the early 20th century.acentury that possibly contributed to resistance to adoption legislation (Triseliotis et al., 2005). Public sentiment towards giving birth out of wedlock, as well as being born out of wedlock, was seen as a terrible stigma, and secrecy was the only way for many to deal with their perceived illegitimacy. Many programs were developed to help relocate dozens of homeless "illegitimate" urban children, including orphanages and transporting children by train to the Midwest and West of the United States. These programs were not considered to be in the best interest of the children as there was no screening of families and children were often adopted to become domestic servants. Orphanages or other institutional settings were hotbeds of disease, malnutrition, and mortality, which also made them less than ideal for homeless children (Carp, 2002). As time passed, adoption began to become a child welfare practice and research on adoption began in the social sciences (Herman, 2008). What began as an interest in psychological or sociological studies related to the biological mother soon expanded to include research on the characteristics of adoptive parents and, ultimately, the benefit to the adoptee (Palacios & Brodzinsky, 2010). This early research was spotty and did little to establish a foundation on which future research could build, but it did set the wheels turning, and in the 1960s, a scholarly analysis of adoption began to emerge (Herman, 2008).

The 1990s brought more complex questions about adoption issues, and subsequent research took a closer look at the psychological difficulties experienced by many adoptees, with less emphasis on the gratitude one should feel for being given a home. This is a shift that has endured in adoption research, as more and more studies have shown that adoptees are over-represented in clinical settings (Palacios & Brodzinsky, 2008). Schechter (1960) began to look at the prevalence of adopted children in treatment settings because he noticed that a high percentage of his own clients were adopted. This thread runs freely through research conducted over the last few decades and has resulted in numerous statistics and conclusions (Grotevant, Dunbar, Kohler, & Esau, 2000; Kirschner, 2007; Moyer & Juang, 2011; Triseliotis et al., 2005). Although research has suggested that there is a great need for knowledge about adoption across mental health disciplines, there is still a disparity in how professionals are prepared to work with members of the adoption triad (Carp, 1998; Christoffersen, 2012; Feeney, Passmore , & Peterson, 2007; Fessler, 2006; Gray, 2002; Henderson, 2007; Herman, 2008; Modell, 2002; Nydam, 2007; Triseliotis et al., 2005; Verrier, 1993; Von Korff, Grotevant, and McRoy, 2006; Zuckerman and Buschbaum, 2007). “Not only is there little or no training for most counselors, social workers and psychologists, but many have only anecdotal experiences with adoption” (Dennis, 2014, p. 28). There is also little available to mental health professionals in the way of continuing education, and more harm may be done rather than the help sought. In a quantitative study by Sass & Henderson (2002), it was found that although adoptees are over-represented in therapy, mental health professionals are not adequately trained to work with adoption issues (Sass & Henderson, 2002). ). Figure 2.1 shows the results of the study, which was in the form of a self-report from 210 psychologists.

Figure 2.1 Percentage of courses with adoption content

Levelnumber of coursesnumber of responses
University student86%11%2%0,5%0,5%202

This study clearly supports the position that more training is needed to provide effective mental health services to all members of the adoption triad (Fisher, 2003; Kirschner, 2006).

Introduction to the annex

The attachment between parents and children forms the basis of all future relationships, and whether these relationships will be healthy or problematic (Gray, 2002). Bowlby (1979) dedicated his life to studying the importance of the relationship between mothers and children, from the observation of the anguish that babies present when separated from their mothers. While most attachment research focuses on the hours, days, and months after a child is born, there are theorists who believe that attachment begins before birth and that adoptees struggle with a loss that may not be easily understood or accepted. In her book,the primary wound, Nancy Verrier (1993) focused on the prenatal bond that develops between mother and child. Her research has fueled her theory that the loss of children through adoption is directly related to lifelong attachment difficulties. Although attachment has been extensively studied in adoption, it is largely oriented towards the concept that losses occur after birth rather than before. This can make therapeutic intervention difficult because only a small piece of the puzzle is analyzed and addressed (Dennis, 2014; Herman, 2008). It also suggests that more research on prenatal attachment and adoption would be helpful.

In addition to being essential to forming healthy relationships, attachment is a necessary component of identity development (McGinn, 2007). Secure attachment in the early years of life provides a solid foundation during adolescence and adulthood, in which healthy identity formation can occur.

History of attachment theory

While there are many theorists who have investigated the role of attachment in human development (Herman, 2008), attachment theory has largely been attributed to John Bowlby (1979). Much of Bowlby's work was influenced by Freud's research on ambivalence, which for individuals involves conflicting ideas or attitudes (Bowlby, 2005), but Bowlby's work encompassed insights from many other extant theories (Ainsworth & Bowlby, 1991). . Attachment theory has its roots in object relations theory, which is a psychoanalytic theory that emphasizes interpersonal relationships, particularly the relationship between mother and child (Ainsworth, 1969; Bowlby, 1980). The "object" in object relations theory is generally thought of as the person who attends to an infant's needs during the first year of life; this is a survival mechanism during early life, when an infant is totally dependent on others for life (Bowlby, 1980). Bowlby also hypothesized that there is a biological link between a child and their caregiver that will ensure the protection and survival of the child (Ainsworth & Bowlby, 1991; Bowlby, 2005; Mackey, 2013). This biological bond is relevant to the development of a healthy self-image if the bond with the primary caregiver is a positive experience for the child. The opposite is true for a child whose physical and/or emotional needs are not being met (Bowlby, 2005). Bowlby observed that the initial, close bonds that form between children and their caregivers tend to endure (Bowlby, 1979). “The baby and young child seek proximity to the mother when they experience physical pain or are dominated by fantasies, such as nightmares” (Brisch, 2004, p. 15).

Much of Bowlby's early research was motivated by his own childhood, having been raised by estranged parents who entrusted his care to a governess (Brisch, 2004). His early experiences influenced his interest in attachment, separation, and loss. Although other theorists have studied attachment, Bowlby is generally credited with focusing on maternal-infant bonds (Pistole, 2011).

Ainsworth expanded on Bowlby's attachment theory by describing how children deal with attachment problems depending on how they interact with their parents, but also emphasized the role of attachment styles in adult relationships (Karen, 1998; Hughes, 2009). In fact, attachment theory has been called the Bowlby-Ainsworth model (Ainsworth et al., 1978; Bowlby, 1973). The theory sees attachment as an adaptive system of behaviors and cognitions, considered by many to be innate but malleable as the infant learns that certain behaviors, such as crying or smiling, communicate the infant's needs to a primary caregiver (Hughes, 2009 ). ). As the baby develops, caregivers' responsiveness provides a sense of security in the world and the baby's ability to explore new things (Hughes, 2009).

Ainsworth is best known in her field for developing the "Strange Situation," in which she used interactions with strangers to investigate a child's attachment to the mother (Karen, 1998; Mackey, 2013). In a laboratory playroom, Ainsworth observed 12- to 18-month-old babies playing with their mothers. The play continued with a brief separation from the mother and then a reunion. Infants in the study were classified as securely attached (70% were considered securely attached). The remaining 30% of babies had some difficulty and appeared to be more difficult to soothe than securely attached babies. In the laboratory setting, researchers observed two separate patterns in children; one group showed anxiety and distress over brief separations from their mothers. When mothers from this group of babies returned, they were unable to calm their infants by holding them and were described as “unsafe; ambivalent” (p. 80). The second group of insecurely attached infants showed no anxiety about the laboratory environment and easily explored and played with toys. Most of these children were not distressed when their mothers left the room and tended to ignore her when she returned to her room after separation. This group was described as “insecure attachment; avoidant” (p. 80).

Later studies showed that the avoidant babies had a physical response in the form of a rapid heartbeat, which would suggest that these babies reacted to their mothers leaving in a similar way to securely attached babies. The difference between securely attached and avoidant babies is that the latter learn to internalize their desire for mother's attention because they anticipate rejection. Thus, while avoidant babies appear calm on the surface, their increased heart rate indicates high anxiety in anticipation of rejection (Brisch, 2002). Avoidant babies show anger sporadically and are often irritable (Mackey, 2013).

Mothers of securely attached babies tend to be touchy and sensitive with their babies. Your behavior is consistent and you are emotionally "available" for your child (p. 80). The baby knows that her needs will be met and is free to explore the world using her mother as a secure base. Mothers of ambivalent babies are sometimes unresponsive and not always responsive to the child's needs, leading to anxiety and uncertainty. Mothers of avoidant babies seem to reject emotional exchanges with their children. More research on attachment theory later led to other categories of insecure attachment, but Ainsworth (1978) provides a good overview of the importance of the mother-infant bond when describing the difference between secure and insecure attachment. There has been some criticism of Ainsworth's findings by other researchers who suggest that temperament is responsible for how a baby reacts (Brodzinsky, Schechter, & Marantz, 1993). There were also psychologists who dismissed Ainsworth's work as flawed because there was no replication and no way to guarantee the reliability of the observational methods he used (Karen, 1998).

Subsequent to the Bowlby/Ainsworth model, a fourth form of attachment was identified (Main & Solomon, 1990). Infants in this category show less predictable behavior in the separation-reunion experience. These children were labeled as disorganized when they found themselves in an awkward situation. Disorganized attachment arises from the fear that the baby may feel, as both the separation from the mother and the search for comfort in the mother can be stressful. In situations where the child's needs have not been consistently met (ie, neglect or abuse), disorganized attachment is more common (Main & Hesse, 1990). The concept of disorganized attachment arose through extensive research into childhood behaviors that did not seem to fit into the categories established by Ainsworth and other well-known attachment theorists (Main & Hesse, 1990). "Disorganized" babies often turned their heads when approaching their parents or simply stood still. These behaviors were considered indicative of fear and a form of approach-escape, in which the baby loves the father, but is also afraid of him (Hesse & Main, 2000; 2006). There is much evidence that disorganized attachment (rather than avoidant or ambivalent insecure attachment) indicates a greater likelihood of psychopathology in the form of dissociative disorder or borderline personality disorder later in life (Carlson, Egeland, & Sroufe, 2009).

Attachment and adoption issues

Babies can bond with other caregivers, but the bond with the mother tends to be the strongest, especially in the first years of life (Brodzinsky et al., 1993; Verrier, 2011). Much of the research on attachment suggests that the bond between mother and child begins at birth, but there are also theories that propose the idea of ​​attachment as an integral part of the prenatal experience (Chamberlain, 1988; 2013; Verrier, 1993; 2003). ) . Verrier (1993) addresses the relationship between mother and child as something more significant for the child in the first years of life, a concept that is based on the attachment theory. In addition, Verrier does not rule out the importance of the father during the first years of life, but points out that the mother's role is essential for the child's survival. Verrier (2003) is part of a group of researchers who believe that attachment begins before birth and that 40 weeks of pregnancy forms a lifelong bond between mother and child. Chamberlain (2013) sees prenatal life as a time of upheaval: that the human fetus is a virtual "learning system" (p. 82). The idea that a fetus learns and reacts to external stimuli while in the womb has been widely documented and generally accepted as fact within the scientific community (Brazelton & Cramer, 1990; Dirix, Nijhuis, Jongsma, & Hornstra, 2009). ; Martens, 2013). However, the concept that attachment can actually begin before birth is quite abstract because there can only be speculation about what a fetus experiences before birth (Brandon, Pitts, Denton, Stringer, & Evans, 2009). In contrast, it is widely accepted that pregnant women begin to show attachment to their fetuses early in pregnancy and see the fetus as part of themselves and as "other" (Cannella, 2005).

Prenatal attachment theory seems contradictory to Bowlby and Ainsworth's position that attachment begins at birth, but it may be vital in future research that focuses on interventions for the fetus that can begin before birth (Brandon et al., 2009). Since the introduction of ultrasound, it has been possible to study the behavior of fetuses in utero. In fact, the Dutch perinatologist Birgit Arabin carried out a study in 1996 in which she examined 25 pairs of twins at various stages of gestation and was able to follow their complex interactions (Chamberlain, 2013). Arabin was able to track interactive behavior including kissing and holding hands between twins, and speculated that behavior between twins could be easily categorized as personality traits reported by parents to continue after birth. Arabin's twin study holds that babies can be closely related before birth, and therefore it is very likely that they can be related to their mother before birth (p. 184). Chamberlain believes that the bond between the fetus and parents should begin as early in pregnancy as possible as an important component of a healthy bond (p.183). Such an assumption can easily be applied to the loss experienced through adoption, when an infant may be permanently separated from the familiarity of its mother. Although a baby may become attached to another caregiver, it is erroneous to assume that the birth mother and adoptive mother can be interchanged without impact on the baby (Verrier, 2003).

In circumstances where a baby is adopted, the outcomes of the awkward situation are similar to those of mothers and biologically related children (Gray, 2002). The differences noted are in babies adopted over six months (p. 68). These infants likely experienced interruptions in care during the first few months of life and must adjust to new caregivers, often more than once during infancy. This is not to say that all adoptees will struggle due to events leading up to the interruption of care, but it is likely that attachment difficulties will be a factor in future relationships (Feeney et al., 2007; McGinn, 2007). Also, in many cases, finalizing the adoption can take six months or more. During this time, a baby's adoptive parents may withhold affection because they fear the birth mother will change her mind and decide to keep the baby. This can affect an infant's ability to attach securely to a primary caregiver (Gray, 2002) and exacerbate existing feelings of loss of the biological mother.

When an infant has formed an attachment to the (biological) mother, he or she may enter the adoptive relationship distressed by primary attachment (Brodzinsky, 1993). Because the baby cannot verbally communicate his needs, he often exhibits behavior that may alarm the adoptive parents. There may be problems sleeping and eating and stunted growth. The inability to bond is one of the main reasons adoption fails, and even when attachment does not appear to be problematic, adoptees are arguably at greater risk for psychological and behavioral problems than non-adoptes.

Attachment problems that begin in childhood continue to cause difficulties as the child grows older (Ainsworth, 1969, 1978, 1989; Bowlby, 1973, 1980, 1988, 2005; Brisch, 2002). Some social psychologists have expanded the idea of ​​the Bowlby-Ainsworth model and applied the secure base concept to include behaviors in adolescent and young adult populations (Brisch, 2002). Bowlby (1969, 1973, 1979, 1980) believed that an individual's attachment style produces "internal working models" of self and others. Bowlby argued that these were mental representations formed in the context of the relationship between the child and the primary caregiver (McGinn, 2007; Pietromonaco & Barrett, 2000). He felt that the attachment relationship with a child's primary caregivers would directly affect how the child would develop and relate to the rest of the world. Bowlby suggested that internal working models are constructed during infancy and early childhood and are pre-verbal. As internal work patterns are formed so early and involve the assimilation of information, they are considered unconscious and probably very difficult (although not impossible) to modify (Pietromonaco & Barrett, 2000). It also means that what is learned through childhood attachment tends to be enduring, and this includes the quality of social relationships and self-understanding (Bowlby, 1969; Brisch, 2002; Hazan & Shaver, 1987).

As insecurely attached babies grow into adulthood, they may have difficulty forming close relationships. In general, these individuals may view relationships as unsafe and people as untrustworthy (Karen, 1994; McGinn, 2007). Bowlby believed that children who have not had their basic needs met and are not securely attached will respond to others by withdrawing from contact or fighting (McGinn, 2007). Furthermore, most developmental tasks are linked to secure attachment, and these tasks are more difficult for children with insecure attachment (p. 65). McGinn argues that adoption, consistency, and quality of care all affect secure attachment, and that the loss of a child's biological mother can contribute to developmental difficulties. There are some researchers who believe that adoptees follow a similar attachment path as non-adoptes, and still others who argue that it is only a caregiver's relationship with a child that establishes a secure attachment, that blood ties have nothing to do with the child. attachment. (Bayless, 1989). Surprisingly, researchers who study adoption and attachment find that adoptees have much more difficulty with attachment-related problems than non-adoptes (Brodzinsky, 1993; Feeney et al., 2007; Gray, 2002; Grotevant & McRoy, 1998 ; Herman, 2008). ; McGinn, 2007; Modell, 1994; Verrier, 1993).

Introduction to Identity

While Bowlby (1969, 1973, 1980, 1982) primarily examined biological adaptation as a result of attachment style, Erik Erikson (1969, 1975, 1980) focused his work on developmental adaptation in relation to culture and social norms. Erikson offered a developmental stages model that was influenced by Freud's model of psychosexual development and emphasizes individual growth and change (Pittman et al., 2011). While Freud's work was limited, both by its focus on zones of the body (Crain, 2011) and the way in which social experience impacts development across the lifespan (p. 36), Erikson's work was a model of lifelong development based on gathering developmentally appropriate, relevant information acquired in the context of important relationships (Erikson, 1968). Erikson believed that cognitive and biological development were the basic components of psychosocial development. His stages of development were based on what he saw as "crises" (p. 19), which were dialectical pairs of opposites representing psychological development during each stage. Erikson felt that the order and timing of each crisis were predetermined, but the consequences were not, and that individual experiences would affect the resolution of each stage. Figure 2.2 depicts the eight stages proposed by Erikson (1959).

Figure 2.2 Stages of Erickson's psychosocial development

Baby - 18 monthsTrust x Mistrust
18 months – 3 yearsAutonomy vs Shame and Doubt
35 yearsInitiative vs. guilt
5 – 13 years oldindustry vs inferiority
13 – 21 years oldIdentity versus role confusion
21 – 39 years oldintimacy versus isolation
40 – 65 years oldGenerativity x Stagnation
65 years or olderEgo integrity versus despair

Erikson theorized that, throughout every person's life, there were eight dialectical stages that each individual would experience at approximately the same time in their lifetime, and that each of these stages consists of a positive and a negative focus. Individuals work toward the positive while dealing with the influence of the negative, and the goal at each stage is to resolve dialectical tension. In childhood, which is a crucial time for attachment, the dialectical struggle takes place between basic trust and basic distrust. This stage is commonly considered the most crucial to attachment, and an individual's inability to learn to trust the primary caregiver creates difficulties at each subsequent stage (Brodzinsky, Schechter, & Henig, 1992; Erikson, 1968; Hoopes, 1990; Pittman et al. . , 2011). Erikson saw identity development as a task that could begin in adolescence, because that is when social, cognitive, and physical maturity also begins to develop (Pittman et al., 2011). It is at this point that the body and mind meet at the crossroads between childhood and maturity (p. 37), and social roles begin to influence development. Erikson (1968) saw identity development as a result of multiple life experiences and emphasized the importance of self-exploration combined with a secure sense of stability within the family (p. 161). The term used by Erikson (1959; 1968) to describe an individual's inability to successfully form an identity is "identity crisis" (p. 16).

The role of attachment in identity formation

Research shows that there is a direct connection between attachment and identity that often intensifies during adolescence when insecure attachment begins to interfere with autonomy (Dunbar & Grotevant, 2004; McGinn, 2007). During adolescence, behavior patterns become more static and, although change can occur at any time in life, it is much easier to intervene as early as possible in children with insecure attachment (Karen, 1998). The adolescent period is when "children typically challenge and question many of the assumptions that have guided their system of beliefs and values" (Javier, Baden, Biafora, Camacho-Gingerich, & Henderson, 2007, p. 4). There is some doubt about what happens to the adopted adolescent during this period of identity development when there are prenatal or postnatal attachment issues, because there is a discrepancy between the biological information available to the adoptee and information related to the adoptive family. . . . Separation-individuation is a process believed to begin around age 3 and continues throughout the life cycle in various ways (McGinn, 2007). Mahler et al. (1975) proposed separation-individuation as phases of life in which a baby learns to distinguish himself from his mother and, as the mother grows, identity and will are discovered. Fahlberg (2013) described adolescent separation-individuation this way:

Adolescents' primary psychological tasks echo those of grades one through five. The young man must psychologically separate again, this time from

the family, finding their place in society as a whole, not just as a family member (p. 107). During adolescence, a combination of individuation and parental connection helps facilitate the transition into adulthood (Kenny, 1994). For an adoptee, the separation of two sets of parents must occur, and there is greater possibility of confusion, such as the question "Who am I?" is not easy to answer (McGinn, 2007).

Research has also shown that major life transitions such as going to college are affected by attachment and that there is often a sense of abandonment rather than independence that can occur for the adoptee during these transitional periods (McGinn, 2007). . There is also difficulty for adoptive parents during the adolescent's separation-individuation phase if they fear being abandoned by the adoptive child or fear that the adoptee will look for the biological parents (p. 69). People who have developed a secure attachment to their parents tend to feel more comfortable exploring a wide variety of experiences because they have a secure foundation to support self-discovery and growth (Reich & Siegel, 2002). Separation is much more difficult for the adoptee who is dealing with an insecure attachment due to the loss inherent in adoption and the fear of further separation and abandonment from the adoptive family (McGinn, 2007).

Attachment patterns are subject to change for various reasons throughout life (Weinfield, Whaley, & Egeland, 2004), but it is common to find stability in secure attachments over time (Waters, Merrick, Treboux, Crowell, & Albersheim, 2000). . This attachment stability suggests that when an infant has a secure baseline relationship with the primary caregiver(s), he or she is more likely to form positive relationships with others throughout life (Pittman, Kiley, Kerpelman and Vaughn, 2011). According to Kenny and Sirin (2006), social adaptability and psychological functioning are characteristics of secure attachment. In adolescents, secure attachment helps the individual navigate developmental transitions and serves as a stress buffer. Secure attachment also helps young adults foster healthy relationships and career choices. It is during this period of development that identity is established, and difficulty in this process can lead to multiple problems related to a person's ability to work and love.

Identity formation and adoption

There are different ways a teenager can deal with an identity crisis, although research indicates that unless the adoptee has a family that is open about adoption and encourages curiosity, the identity crisis will be more difficult to navigate (Brodzinsky, 1992) . For adoptees who have no exposure or information about their birth family, a fantasy can be constructed to fill in the gaps where information is lacking. Brodzinsky believes that adopted teens' identity formation is similar to that of non-adopted teens, but they may struggle with what adoption means and have a harder time going through this developmental phase. Identity development for adoptees has the added component of having to discover themselves in the context of adoption, in addition to the stage-appropriate tasks faced by non-adoptes. Brodzinsky, Schechter, and Henig (1992) developed a psychosocial model (see Figure 2.3) in response to Erikson's eight developmental stages that describe the challenges adoptees face at some of the stages Erikson describes. Problems that are not resolved during a given stage can resurface in later stages of development, causing personal and relational difficulties (p. 15).

Figure 2.3 A psychosocial model of adaptation to adoption


Birth to 1 year

Trust x Mistrust

Learn that the world is one

safe place - Hope.

Adaptation to the transition to a new home.

Develop secure attachments, especially in cases of delayed placement.

childhood and

Pre school

Age 2-3

Autonomy versus shame/doubt

Develop free will and self-determination.


Learn about birth and reproduction.

Adjustment in the initial information about the adoption.

Recognize differences in physical appearance,

especially in interracial and international adoption.



industry vs inferiority

Develop a sense of purpose with guidance.


Understand the meaning and implications of being adopted.

Looking for answers and implications of adoption.

Dealing with family physical differences.

Dealing with the stigma associated with adoption.

Dealing with peer reactions to adoption, and this

adoption means loss.

Mourn the loss even when you are happy with the adoptive family.

Start understanding the legal process; they may fear being taken or abandoned again.

You may express anger, pain and sadness due to feelings of abandonment and/or rejection.

AdolescenceEgo identity versus identity confusion

Learn about strengths, weaknesses, goals, sexuality, gender roles, occupations.

Further exploration of the meaning and implications of being adopted.

Connect adoption to one's sense of self; They tend to hold their thoughts.

Dealing with racial identity in interracial adoption.

Dealing with the physical differences of family members.

Crafting the fantasy of family romance; want more information about biological parents.

Dealing with adoption-related loss, especially as it pertains to one's sense of self.

Considering the possibility of looking for the biological parents.

age of majorityintimacy versus isolation

Love and the ability to be close to others.

Further exploration of adoption in relation to self-growth and intimacy development.

Other research considerations.

Adjusting to parenthood in light of the resignation story.

Facing one's own unknown genetics in the context of children.

Dealing with adoption-related loss.

middle ageGenerativity x Stagnation

worry about others


Exploring adoption in relation to the aging self.

Reconcile the creation of a legacy with an unknown past.

Other research considerations. Dealing with adoption-related loss.

late adulthoodEgo integrity versus despair

Wisdom and acceptance of successes and failures.

Facing the end of life

Final resolution of the implications of adoption in the context of a life review.

Final thoughts on the search for a surviving biological family.

This model demonstrates that many adoption-related issues remain a lifelong challenge. This adds to the developmental conflicts an individual must deal with between childhood and old age, as described by Erikson. For example, while an adolescent struggles with typical tasks that contribute to identity formation during the Identity vs. Role confusion (Figure 2.2), adoption adds another layer that complicates this process and can lead to problems that impede an integrated sense of identity (Brodzinsky, Schechter, and Henig, 1992; Dunbar and Grotevant, 2004).

While Erikson's belief was that history intersects with life (1959; 1980; 1994), research on adoption strongly suggests that an individual denied access to a biological history because of the limitations of adoption has a more difficult time successfully moving forward in life. identity formation process. (Brodzinsky & Schechter, 1990; Colaner, 2014; Grotevant, Dunbar, Kohler & Esau, 2007; Kohler, Grotevant & McRoy, 2002; Palacios & Grotevant, 2010; Pertman, 2011). The most basic element of identity is self-definition; the set of characteristics by which eachweidentifies and by which we are recognized by others within a given social or historical context (Grotevant, 1997; Palacios & Grotevant, 2010). While the adoptive family tree may be sufficient to help form identity on a superficial level (which may be sufficient for many adoptees), many more adoptees go through life with a distinct sense that something is missing (Brodzinsky et al., 1992; Grotevant, Dunbar, Kohler, and Esau, 2007; Palacios and Brodzinsky, 2010).

As Erikson and his wife, Joan, approached 90, they began to write about a ninth stage of development. Erikson died in 1994 and Joan completed the investigation in step nine. Early stage components are reviewed with more emphasis on the negative as the struggle to cope with daily difficulties increases with age (Erikson, 1998). Erikson believed that all eight dialectical pairs could be resolved, but that a negative resolution could affect later stages. After Erikson's death, Joan Erikson began to conceptualize the ninth stage as a time of transcendence from the material and superfluous to the spiritual, in which the fear of death is diminished (Erikson & Erikson, 1998).

Research on adoption and adoption issues

There have been many studies that have focused on comparisons between adoptees and non-adoptes, and it is clear from examining the research (see Table 2.4) that adoptees face challenges including attachment difficulties, identity formation difficulties, and loss. (Palaces & Brodzinsky, 2010). A better approach seems to be to study how mental health professionals and other post-adoption service providers can begin to work more effectively with the needs of those affected by adoption. This would include incorporating issues of adoption and clinical competence into postgraduate mental health training programs, but studies show that little or no training is received in most programs (Palacios & Brodzinsky, 2010; Sass & Henderson, 2000; Weir, Fife, Whiting, and Blazewick, 2008).

Figure 2.4 Table of representative studies reflecting adoption, attachment, identity formation, and need for counselor competence

Adoption and IdentityMoyer e Juang, (2011)Adopted adults (18-25)


Interview and follow-up interviewIdentity is affected by adoption; ask for more research
Attachment and self-esteem of the adopteePassmore, Fogarty, Bourke e Baker-Evans (2005)Adopted and non-adopted adults


Questionnaire on identity styles and self-esteem;

MANOVA with family style (IV)

F(16, 374)=1,78,page<0,05The results indicate a relationship between attachment, family style and self-esteem; need for more research
Adjustment adoptedKorff, Grotevant and McRoy, (2006)adoptive relatives


Adoptees interviewed 8 years apartContact with biological family has an impact on healthy adjustment; needs more longitudinal studies
Psychological functioning and adoption experience.Muller, Gibbs e Ariely, (2002)adopted adults


Questionnaire about adoption experience and psychological functioningReturn rate (34.5%)Results indicate that adoption and psychological functioning are important considerations; need

more studies

Mental health of adopteesPassmore, Feeney, Peterson e Shimmaki, (2006)Adopted Adults (norte=144) and not adopted (norte=131)vote

hierarchical regression;

MANCOVA with parental as (IV)

The complete model was significant: With mothers as variables,R=.39;F(6, 260)=6.20;With Parents as variables, R=.39;F(6, 258)=7,63,page<.001; significant lackF(8,123)= 2,36,page<0,05Results indicated that adoption had an impact on mental health; need for the counselor to be aware of specific adoption issues
Post-adoption services for adopteesAdopted children (12 to 14 years old)interviews

(norte=8) about difficulties with services

Adoptees need more educated and trained post-adoption service providers
Counselor's knowledge, skill in adoption matters.Atkinson , Gonet , Freundich and Riley ( 2013 ).Mental Health Doctors (norte=185)Study 1: Questionnaire about changing mental health counselors in practice; Study 2: Questionnaire asking adoptees the importance of adoption competency for mental health counselors (norte=485)Adoptees reported that 25% of mental health professionals were competent; 26% said "not competent"; remaining "not sure"Adoption skills training is important to allow adoptees access to competent mental health professionals.
Therapeutic experience of adopteesGall e Henderson (2013)Adopted Adults (norte=218)& Biological parents (norte=63)Questionnaire measuring the mental health counselor's perceived level of skill and knowledge;

linear regression; MANOVA with Research and Awareness as IV

Significant linear regression for director improvement from 1965 to 1999, χ² (1,norte=132)=19.786,page<.0001Importance of adoption in counselor development and awareness and skill enhancement
Adult adoption and bondingFeeney, J. A., Passmore, N. L. e Peterson, C. C. (2007)Adopted Adults (norte=140) and not adopted (norte=128)Questionnaire measuring attachment, relationship quality and relationship with biological family (for adopted persons)MANOVA showed significance; F(5, 262) = 4.10, p<0.001Overrepresented adoptees in the insecure attachment category

The purpose of this study was to gain an in-depth look at the lived experiences of eight adoptees who discussed their personal adoption experiences related to attachment, identity formation, and experiences with support services or mental health professionals. The methodological framework for this study was a qualitative phenomenological analysis used to understand the rich experience lived by the participants (Creswell, 2014). Current literature addresses the attachment and identity formation facets of adoption, but does not fully explore the importance of how community mental health care can be most helpful for adoptees, adoptive parents, and biological parents in understanding issues related to attachment and formation. of identity that are often neglected or minimized due to lack of specialized training.


Ignore what happened before you were born

is always being a child ~ Cícero


This research study sought to understand the participants' experiences about adoption, identity formation and attachment, as well as the perceived importance of biological history in the process of defining individual identity. In choosing to explore this research topic, a transcendental phenomenological framework was used (Husserl, 1931; Moustakas, 1994; Patton, 2015). Patton (p. 98) describes phenomenology as asking "What is the meaning, structure, and essence of lived experience for this person or group of people?" Husserl (1965) explains that "phenomenology is the 'science of science', since it only investigates what all other sciences simply take for granted" (p. 23). Phenomenologists focus on how people use their experience to make sense of the world and thus develop a worldview; how people “experience what they experience” (p. 117). Phenomenology also examines the structure of experiences and addresses the meaning of things in relation to experience, such as the importance of self and others, events and objects relevant to an individual's lived experience (Smith, 2013). ). There is a component of phenomenology that suggests that finding meaning in one individual's lived experiences can contribute to the shared experiences of many (Patton, 2015).

Transcendental phenomenology is generally attributed to Edmund Husserl, and Moustakas (1994) organized it into a qualitative research method. In short, transcendental phenomenology is based on the intentionality of thinking, feeling, and acting, and how each of themweinterprets or gives meaning to experiences (Smith, 2013). like each ofwerealizes that an experience is individually specific and therefore a subjective experience for everyone. Phenomenology allows for the objective study of events generally considered subjective in a way that transcends objectivity (Moustakas, 1994). Intentionality is an important consideration in transcendental phenomenology and requires the researcher to be self-aware. Moustakas (1994) states that “Intentionality refers to consciousness, the internal experience of being aware of something; thus, the act of consciousness and the object of consciousness are intentionally related” (p. 28). Each intention consists of a noema and a noesis, which can be considered respectively the "what" or "perceived as such" and the "how" or "perfect evidence" of an experience (p. 30). Noema and noesis are present together and both comprise the intentionality of consciousness (p. 31). Transcendental phenomenology is a unique way of investigating human experience because it requires researcher engagement while involving participants as "co-investigators" (p. 34).

The methodology in transcendental phenomenological research starts with epoché, which is a Greek word that means to refrain from judging and to avoid the everyday way of seeing the world because making judgments is a natural process that we use to filter what we see or experience (Moustakas, 1994). ; Patton, 2014). This means that the researcher must be able to understand and be aware of personal biases and be clear about preconceived ideas (Patton, 2014). The epoché is an ongoing analytical process, not a fixed event, and is a critical component of phenomenology (p. 575).

The next step is a process known as transcendental phenomenological reduction. "Transcendental" refers to the return to the pure ego, in which we are able to perceive phenomena in a pure and uncontaminated way. “Phenomenological” refers to transforming the world into a mere phenomenon, and “reduction” because it “performswereturn to the source of meaning and existence of the experienced world” (Schmitt, 1967, p. 61). The transcendental-phenomenological reduction considers each experience singularly, in itself (Moustakas, 1994). “The phenomenon is perceived and described in its entirety, in a fresh and open way” (p. 34). The objective is to build a textual description of the phenomenon that includes the components of perceptions, thoughts, feelings, sounds, colors and shapes.

Husserl (1931) described a process known as parenthesis, which requires the researcher to bracket information to separate it from the world, to take it apart and examine it, rather than interpreting it according to the standard meanings suggested by the existing literature (Patton, 2014). The use of square brackets requires the researcher to suspend judgment about the natural world and helps to avoid making assumptions (Moustakas, 1994). It is a means of demonstrating the validity of data collection and analysis (Gearing, 2004). There is no prescribed method to ensure prevention of bias in phenomenological research, but self-awareness is an important ingredient (Ahern, 1999).

Once the data has been grouped, it is examined so that all items are given equal weight. It is then organized into meaningful groups and irrelevant or repetitive data is removed. Themes within the data are identified and an "imaginative variation" is developed, which provides a holistic view of the data that allows the researcher to develop improved or expanded versions of the invariant themes in the data (Patton, 2014). Next, the researcher constructs textural representations of the themes; this is not a description of the essence of an experience, but content and illustration (p. 576). The final step in the methodology, the synthesis of texture and structure, requires “an integration of composite text and composite structural descriptions, providing a synthesis of the meanings and essences of experience” (Moustakas, 1994, p. 144).

This study explored adoptees' thoughts, perceptions, and experiences about identity formation and secure attachments. The role of biological history as part of identity formation and secure attachments was also examined. It is important for the whole investigation. This is one of the central principles of phenomenology (p. 58). The information collected through the participants' lived experiences can serve as a tool to understand how mental health services for adoptees and other members of the adoption triad can be improved.

Investigator's Background

The investigator for this study is a licensed marriage and family therapist with a master's degree in private practice. He has been counseling members of the adoption triad for six years and has taught graduate students at Western Grant University about mental health issues among adoptees. The investigator is aware of the high incidence of questionable mental health diagnoses attributed to adoptees, the overrepresentation of adoptees in treatment centers, and the lack of informed mental health professionals to work effectively with adoption (Dennis, 2014; Janus , 2011, Kirschner, 2006 ; Palacios & Brodzinsky, 2010; Ryan & Nalavany, 2008). The researcher is an adoptee who grew up with an adopted sibling and has a biological sibling who is adopted.

As a mental health professional, the researcher is aware of the role of countertransference as a potential barrier to impartial interpretation of participants' experiences. In the field of mental health counseling, the concept of countertransference is described as the “projected emotional reaction or behavior of the counselor toward the client” (Gladding, 2009, p. 170). While there are many ways in which countertransference can impact the mental health counseling environment, it is natural to filter information through experiences and feelings the practitioner may have had. Learning to separate one's own feelings and thoughts from the client's and to remain self-aware is an invaluable tool for mental health professionals (Corey, 2009). In transcendental phenomenology, this is known as the Epoché process, which describes the need for the researcher to set aside bias to ensure that the study is free from the influence of the researcher's previous experience (Moustakas, 1994). The researcher must be open, receptive, and naive in listening to research participants describe their own experiences (p. 22). Aware of the importance of the epoché process, the researcher of this study remained attentive to her own thoughts and feelings when listening to and interpreting the experiences of the research participants.

Participants and Venue Selection

(Video) How to Write a Phenomenological Dissertation

Phenomenology examines lived experiences from the point of view of participants who are personally familiar with the subject under investigation. In the case of this study, participants were selected based on the fact that they were adopted in the country and were between 45 and 60 years old. Although most adoptions in the mid-1970s were closed adoptions, this was not a factor in the selection of participants. A non-probabilistic sampling strategy known as snowball sampling, baseline chain sampling, or respondent-driven sampling (Berg, 2011) was used to locate participants who experienced adoption. The basic premise of snowball sampling is to locate participants who might be considered “information-rich key informants or critical cases” (Patton, 2014, p. 298). These participants are asked to provide references of others who have similar experiences (ie, who have been adopted). An additional recruiting source can be through an online forum, the DNA Adoption Community. The investigator sent email requests to potential participants asking them to contact the investigator by phone or email to participate in the study (see Appendix A).

Patton (2014) stated that there is no suggested sample size in qualitative research, but for a researcher to use judgment and be flexible. “The validity, meaning, and insights generated by qualitative research have more to do with the wealth of information from selected cases (p. 313), so sample size is less of a focus than breadth and depth of investigation. . However, a study must specify a minimum number of participants. For this study, the researcher intended to interview eight adoptees; ideally four women and four men. As it turned out, the sample consisted of six women and two men. All names and identifying information have been changed to protect participants' privacy, and pseudonyms have been assigned by the investigator. Each participant expressed interest in the nature and importance of the research due to having been adopted at birth or soon after. In addition, participants participated in an interview lasting one to two hours and then participated in brief follow-up interviews. The initial interview consisted of a series of semi-structured questions (see Appendix B). All interviews were conducted in person, and the location of the interviews was the investigator's private office, as it was convenient for both the participants and the investigator. There were no follow-up interviews or interviews conducted over the phone, but there were two follow-up interviews that were completed via email because the participants were unavailable to meet in person. Participants were asked to give their consent for the researcher to record the interview and for the resulting data to be transcribed and then published in a dissertation (see Appendix C).

Presentation to participants

Each participant provided a unique insight into their thoughts, feelings, and adoption experiences. Some were taken aback by the depth of emotion evoked by the topic, but all were sincere and expressed their gratitude for doing something to help the plight of adoptees and their families. Below is a brief description of each participant:

Is it over there

She is 47 years old, the mother of three children and the grandmother of one baby. She is a self-described artist and singer, and has also published a book of poetry. She is not in a relationship with her biological or adoptive family, but she is happy to have all the information about her biological parents and the circumstances surrounding her adoption. She is the only contestant to have a full biological sibling who was raised by her birth parents. She is a mental health professional in private practice.


Claire is a 55-year-old woman who has never been married and has no children. He lives in the same town where he grew up and still takes care of his elderly mother. She is an educator at a large museum and considers herself relatively close to her two sisters, the biological daughters of her adoptive parents. Claire is the middle sister; she didn't find out she was adopted until she was twelve years old. Claire sought out and found her biological mother when she turned 50, but doesn't have much of a relationship with her. He still has no idea who her biological father is, but he's still a little curious.

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Beth is a 56-year-old woman with three adult children and one grandchild. Beth is an analyst at a small university and recently got married for the third time to a man she considers her soul mate. Beth's adoption story is a little different from the other participants, as she was abandoned at birth on the steps of a Catholic church. Beth had contact with her biological parents; she was able to find them through DNA testing. She reports that she has a good relationship with her foster family, although she says it's been a bit rocky at times. He sees his biological father and his other children fairly regularly, but he doesn't keep in touch with his biological mother.


Gina is a 47-year-old woman, married with an eleven-year-old daughter. She is an office manager at a small company and, like Claire, takes care of her elderly mother who lives nearby. Gina describes her foster family as very close, but she has a brother diagnosed with schizophrenia. He is the only biological child of her adoptive parents. Gina has had no contact with her biological family, but it indicates some curiosity. He plans to look for it at some point, but probably not while his adoptive mother is still alive.


Frank is a 51-year-old man, married with an adult child. He is an electrical engineer who designs software for a large manufacturer. Frank's adoptive parents lost a baby two years before Frank was born. Frank believes he was adopted as a "replacement" for the son his parents lost. They had two more biological children and Frank maintains a relationship with his brothers. Frank searched for and found his biological mother and two half sisters. They get together often and Frank feels very close to them. His biological father refuses to recognize Frank, but through DNA, Frank has made contact with a paternal half-brother.


Abby is a 47-year-old woman who was married once and divorced. He doesn't have kids, but he loves his dogs! She is an accountant, but also makes costumes as a hobby. He describes his childhood as chaotic at times, with foster parents who fought a lot. He maintains a relationship with his brothers, who were also adopted. Abby left home at seventeen and has never looked back. She didn't look for her biological parents, but if she did, it would be to let them know she was okay.


David is a 48-year-old man who was adopted at birth. His parents had a biological son two years after they adopted David. David is a software engineer; He was married once and is now divorced. He has no children and has been in a relationship with his girlfriend for twelve years. David has taken several DNA tests and prides himself on being an expert at building family trees. He has found her biological mother and is in a relationship with her, but has been disowned by his biological father.


Helen is a 60-year-old woman, married for 35 years and the mother of three adult children. She describes her family as close and loving, but describes herself as practically unable to relate because her family moved around so much while she was growing up. He has a brother, who was also adopted; the two did not keep in touch. Helen didn't want to talk about adopting her as she grew up, but she reached out to her biological mother when she was 30 and already had children of her own. He is unsuccessful in his search for her, but he does locate her maternal uncle, who gives him information about her heritage before cutting off contact with Helen. She is curious but not sure how to proceed.

The position in phenomenological research is that each participant is essentially a co-investigator in the study (Fraelich, 1989; Moustakas, 1994). Given this structure, all participants received a transcribed copy of their interview to ensure that thoughts, feelings and experiences were adequately captured. This is an important feature of phenomenological research. In addition, each participant had the opportunity to add to or modify the interview transcript during the follow-up semi-structured interview (see Appendix E), which took place shortly after participants received the transcribed copy of their initial interview.

Data collect

Data collection was performed after the selection of participants and the initial interview. Prior to starting the study, the investigator conducted a pilot interview with a mental health professional using semi-structured interview questions (see Appendix B). This process is designed to help ensure that the questions are clear to the participants and that the questions are relevant and sufficiently explore the participant's lived experience. The semi-structured interview questions covered information about the adoption of each participant; thoughts, feelings and experiences related to adoption; identity; and attachment. Long, semi-structured interviews are standard in phenomenological research studies, although the researcher should be aware that although the questions are developed prior to the interview, "they vary, are modified, or are not used when the co-investigator shares the story." from their experience” (Moustakas, 1994, p.115) In this study, participants routinely talked about their adoption without questions being really necessary to guide them.

Participants were asked to complete a demographic questionnaire (see Appendix D). All interviews were audio recorded and transcribed by the researcher. Transcripts ranged in length from 62 minutes to 70 minutes. The researcher took notes during the interview, when appropriate, in order to formulate new questions and point out where in each interview specific information was conveyed (Patton, 2014). The researcher wrote down her immediate impressions after the interview.

Each participant was interviewed and then contacted for a follow-up interview. The follow-up interview was a shorter, less comprehensive interview to check in with the participant and explore additional information that may have emerged after the initial interview. Follow-up also allowed the participant to expand or revise the information given in the initial interview. Questions that arose during the initial interview were addressed in the following interview.


This study demonstrated that more research is needed in the area of ​​attachment and identity formation in adoption. This finding includes information that also demonstrates the need for mental health professionals to be competent in providing services to members of the adoption triad. Other phenomenological studies could examine a wider range of problems experienced by adoptees, adoptive parents, and biological parents to augment the information found in this study. As this study focused on the lived experiences of adoptees, the findings exclude the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of other members of the adoption triad that may enhance the current knowledge base.

This study did not cover all areas of difficulty in adoption. It did not address the attachment and identity formation issues experienced by intercountry adoptees. We hope that future studies will explore this further so that mental health professionals can understand the experiences of international adoptees.

Open adoption, stepparent adoption, interracial adoption, and adoption out of foster care present more areas where future studies may gain insight into mental health needs that may not be being met. Qualitative studies on the experiences of mental health professionals working with adoption would be useful to assess standards of competence and diagnosis when working with adoption. Adoption, in some configuration, has always been part of our society. How the mental health community deals with the part of the population affected by adoption will be greatly influenced by future research.

Data analysis

The objective of analyzing phenomenological data is for the researcher to be able to reconstruct the experiences lived by the participants in relation to the phenomenon. Phenomenology attempts to describe those ingredients that make something what it is (Husserl, 1931). There is a challenge for researchers to get into the mind of each participant and understandit isexperience ofit ispoint of view. In this study, the researcher not only explored the experience of being adopted for the participants, but also their experiences of how adoption may have impacted identity formation and attachment difficulties. Participants discussed their experience with mental health professionals and whether (or how) the adoption experience was addressed.

Data were analyzed using a method that Moustakas (1994) modified from the Stevick-Colaizzi-Keen method of organizing and analyzing phenomenological data (p. 121). This process is detailed below:


According to Moustakas (1994), the epoché is achieved “by letting go of predilections, prejudices, predispositions, and allowing things, events and people to re-enter consciousness, and look at them and see them again, as if it were the first time” ( page 85). Moustakas suggested that epoché implies square brackets, which implies keeping the data free from investigator bias. This helped the focus to remain on the participants' experiences without the investigator's thoughts, feelings, assumptions, or personal experiences about adoption, identity formation, and attachment. To help achieve epoché in this study, the investigator asked a colleague to administer the semi-structured interview (see Appendix B) to the investigator to address biases and prejudices. The colleague was a master's-level licensed marriage and family therapist with ten years experience in the counseling field. The colleague helped the researcher explore personal reasons for conducting this study; along with what information he expected to get from her and whether certain results were expected. As qualitative researchers seek to understand meaning, it is important to be continually aware of yourself and your relationship to participants. As the content of the interviews was personally significant to the researcher, continual self-examination was required throughout the research process to more fully ensure that objectivity was maintained. This level of reflexivity helped the researcher keep assumptions in check. As a practicing therapist, this process is very similar to the experience of countertransference, in that the therapist must be aware of the biases and prejudices that can affect the therapeutic relationship. This interview was audio-recorded and fully transcribed and helped the researcher to understand her own experiences, thoughts and feelings about the phenomena so that she could better reflect with an open mind on the experiences of the participants in this study.

Additionally, the researcher had a dedicated workspace to remove the distractions of everyday life and provide a cohesive environment for analyzing the data.

Gain an understanding of the data.

Each of the interviews was recorded and transcribed by the researcher. To ensure the accuracy of the transcripts, the researcher listened to the recordings more than once. He took notes and questions from each interview with the participants so that they could be addressed in the next interview.


Horizontalization is the process described by Moustakas (1994) as the researcher's responsibility to consider each statement about the participant's experience as equally valuable. After each interview, the researcher “developed a list of significant statements” (Creswell, 2014, p. 159). This involved carefully reading each statement to identify statements that captured the essence of the experience. Significant statements were identified and the researcher made notes of anything in question to ask the participant during the follow-up interview. This was helpful in uncovering more specific information about the experience, thoughts, or feelings (Creswell, 2013). Initially, each statement received the same value and all statements were considered relevant. As part of this step, the researcher reviewed each sentence to identify statements that might have captured the essence of the experience, as well as to discriminate between statements that did not seem significant and those that illustrated the phenomenon. Moustakas (1994) describes this process as the determination of invariant horizons, which “point to the unique qualities of an experience” (p. 128).

Identify invariant constituents/themes

To identify the invariant constituents, which are the units of meaning that will finally be grouped into themes, each interview was examined using a method described by Moustakas (1994) in his modified version of Van's phenomenological data analysis method. -Kam:

(a) Does the statement contain a component of experience that is a vital constituent of understanding it?

(b) Can the statement be summarized and labeled?

If a statement does not meet the above requirements, the investigator has not deemed it relevant to the study. From the invariant constituents, the researcher developed a list of significant statements and grouped them into “larger units of information, called units of meaning or themes” (Creswell, 2014, p. 159).

textural descriptions

Themes were used to build a textural description of each participant's adoption experience. These descriptions recounted each participant's experience and portrayed clear pictures as expressed in the description. Moustakas (1994) explained the textural description as:

“an intertwining of person, conscious experience and phenomenon. In this process of explaining the phenomenon, qualities are recognized and described; each perception is given equal value, the non-repeating constituents of the experience are thematically linked, and a complete description is described” (p. 96). The textural descriptions produced a conscious representation of each participant's personal knowledge about the adoption experience in their own words (Creswell, 2014).

structural description

This step involved “a vivid account of the underlying dynamics of the experience” (Moustakas, p. 135). The researcher used texture descriptions as a basis to help describe the underlying essence of the adoption experience. The use of imaginative variation helped the researcher explain the "how" in each participant's thoughts and feelings about the adoption experience. This concept is based on the fact that the researcher manages to move away from himself and assume a reflective position in which all points of view are possible. “The aim is to arrive at structural descriptions of an experience, the underlying and precipitating factors that explain what is being experienced; in other words, the “how” that speaks to the conditions that illuminate the “what” of the experience” (p. 98). Patton (2014) expresses this as the “bones” of the experience for the group of participants (p. 486). ) The researcher used the information to look for possible meanings and divergent perspectives.

Composite textural-structural description

The final step in the data analysis process was to form a composite description of the phenomenon that incorporated descriptions of each participant's adoption experience from the textural and structural descriptions of the adoption experience (Creswell, 2014). The composition omitted specific details of the experience reported by the participants, but focused on aspects of the experience that are descriptive of the overall experience. The researcher addressed the two questions (from step four) that described what the participants experienced with the phenomenon and how they experienced it (p. 159). This finally provided the answers to the original research questions.


Children of your children, children passing by

The children got lost in the lullaby

Children of true love, children of regret

All your children you can never forget

-Jacques Brel

The purpose of this study was to deepen the experiences of eight adoptees who were interviewed and discussed their personal adoption experiences related to attachment, identity formation and experiences with support services or mental health professionals. A transcendental phenomenological qualitative framework was used to analyze the collected data. Participants were chosen based on their experience as highly experienced adoptees who were adopted into the country at birth or near birth between 1955 and 1971.

In taped interviews, each of the eight participants shared their experience of adoption and its impact on their lives. Thoughts and experiences of mental health professionals regarding adoption were also discussed. As each participant described their own experiences, common beliefs and experiences emerged. Through the use of qualitative phenomenological analysis, seven themes emerged from the experiences of the adoptees. These themes were:Feelings of 'otherness' or difference from non-adopted ones; loyalty; identity; secrets and lies; relational issues; please people; and experiences with mental health professionals.From the wealth of information collected in the interviews, additional themes emerged that are not presented because, although they contribute to the faithful representation of the experiences described by the participants, they were a little less distinct than the seven chosen themes.

Data consist of transcripts of semi-structured interviews for each participant. In addition, the researcher contacted participants for follow-up interviews in order to process any feelings that may have arisen in the participant, as well as explore any pertinent information that may have emerged after the initial interview. The interviews were conducted in a semi-structured interview format, allowing for an open and authentic expression. Secondary contact with participants allowed the researcher to clarify any information that was unclear to ensure an accurate representation of the adoptees' thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Each participant provided a descriptive account of their adoption experience, as well as their understanding of the circumstances surrounding their adoption. While each story has slightly different content, themes appear repeatedly throughout each interview and often evoke deep emotions during the narrative. Based on the participants' experiences, themes are shared. The first section presents individual textural descriptions of each participant's experience of adoption, attachment, and identity formation, summarizing their experiences. This presentation is followed by the seven themes that emerged from the collected data and a summary of the data.

Text descriptions of participants

Is it over there

She approached the interview with enthusiasm; Getting the chance to talk about her unique life experience was apparently exciting, and she was excited throughout the entire interview process. She has a larger than life personality and expresses herself through clothing and looks. Initially, she appears confident, but admits she often has doubts. She was adopted by a couple who had no biological children and divorced when she was little. She says:

My mother worked for the district attorney when I was adopted. They didn't have to go through normal channels, I don't think so. It wasn't difficult for them and there was no background check. My father was a sleazy guy; they were nasty people.

Ella believed that her parents had bypassed traditional adoption routes, through the state or social services, because they had politically influential friends who facilitated the adoption of Ella and her younger sister. She describes instances of sexual and emotional abuse that permeated her childhood and recalls being "devastated" to learn that she was adopted at such a young age. Her sister Kim was 17 months younger than Ella and the two were never close. Kim is now 45 years old and still lives with her adoptive mother. She felt that Kim did better in life because Kim was better able to conform to her parents' wishes. Kim apparently hasn't struggled with sexual abuse and hasn't caused a stir in the family like Ella has. Kim has never shown interest in meeting her biological family, as far as Ella is concerned, and Ella is not in contact with Kim at this time. She had not been in contact with her adoptive parents for about a year at the time of the initial interview and says, "I've never felt better."

The adoption impacted Ella's life in many ways. She struggled with depression at times and was hospitalized in a psychiatric clinic as a teenager. She had attempted suicide at the time, and although her adoption was not discussed at this time, she did receive approval from a lady at the psychiatric hospital who told her, “Look, they're crazy; You're not crazy. Just spend the rest of your teenage years and get out there. He did, but he didn't pull away. She continued to have contact with her adoptive family who continually confused her; Others told Ella that she was beautiful, smart and creative, while her mother always treated her like she was worthless. She believes this led to relationships with abusive men because she never thought she deserved better, and she recounts many unhappy relationship experiences throughout her life. You are currently in what you consider to be a healthy relationship, but you see things in your life on a daily basis.

which she attributes to her adoption experience and being raised in an abusive home where she felt she didn't belong.

She searched for and found her biological parents. When she was 18, she asked her father if he knew the names of her biological parents, although she had been a closed adoption, so her parents must not have had any information. He gave her a few names, and although she initially didn't believe he was telling the truth, it turned out that he was.

I was not like my parents! Nothing! So when I turned 18, I asked my dad who my real parents were and he told me their names. Because he said 'John and Mary Hunter' I laughed out loud because I knew he was lying to me; Come on, you can do better than this! Turns out she was telling the truth, but how could she know it was a closed adoption? It didn't make sense to me.

She ended up registering with an agency that connects biological parents with adoptees and found out that her biological parents were also registered. He discovered that her parents had married and already had a son who is Ella's brother.

Her birth father wasn't ready to have a second child and threatened to leave her birth mother if she kept Ella, so she was put up for adoption.


Claire was a little excited at the beginning of the interview. She tearfully recounted the story of her father blurting out the fact that she was adopted while the two were in the garage stacking firewood when Claire was 12 years old. She thought he might be playing with her because he liked to "play".

My father was a great joker and a big, kind, affable man. He was always talking nonsense, but I soon realized he was serious. The way he told me and where we were; I just wasn't prepared for big news like that. I just took it and said, 'Huh.' I didn't know what to do with that information.

She was emotionally unprepared for the news and had no idea that she was not her parents' natural child. Claire is the middle child; Jane is seven years older and Sally two years younger. Jane and Sally are Claire's parents' biological daughters. All three girls have blonde hair and blue eyes, and Claire's experience was that people always commented on how similar the three girls looked, even though she was considerably taller. She attributed this to the fact that her father was tall and her mother short and that naturally there would be variations. Although Claire was taken aback, she was later able to ask her father some questions about her adoption and birth parents. She gladly answered the questions as best she could, but Claire realized that her mother had no part in this revelation or the ensuing discussion. A few years later, she finds out from her older sister (who also knew and kept the secret) that Claire's parents didn't agree to tell Claire. There was an unspoken message that Claire's mother wasn't willing to talk about adoption. In addition to the news of the adoption suddenly changing what she believed about herself, Claire tearfully spoke about how her younger sister used to use the adoption as a way to hurt Claire.

This is difficult for me. Everyone in my family, except my little sister, treated me like I was no big deal. When Sally found out, sometimes she used it to hurt me. That part was hard, even though my parents fell on it like a nuclear bomb. She was a fun kid but could be a little hard on people; about me. And it really hurt me; having to deal with the news and then feeling like it somehow changed the playing field between me and Sally.

Her parents would punish Sally for this, and although the sisters all have a good relationship as adults, there is still some stress between Claire and Sally. Claire never felt her parents treated her differently and told her she was a gift. Sally ended up adopting a girl, and Claire sometimes wonders if the way Sally treated her as a child had something to do with her decision to adopt.

Claire silently struggled with the news of her adoption. He was starting high school and that added another layer of uncertainty to his life. She believes she blocked adoption out of her mind during high school and just didn't think about it. She says she still does this even though she searched for and found her biological mother as an adult. Her father passed away when Claire was 20, and Claire felt like she had been cheated on by him. She chose to move back to her hometown after graduate school to be close to her mother. Her two sisters live in other states and, at the time of the interview, Claire had assumed the role of mother's caregiver. Her sisters come to visit periodically, but they are not very helpful in caring for her mother.

When Claire turned 50 in 2011, she decided to look into the details of her adoption. Reluctantly, she asked her mother for directions and was instructed to check the bank vault.

I have a friend who is adopted and she and I met when we were in our 20s. We talk a lot about our adoptions. He fell ill when he found his biological parents; in fact, her mother wanted nothing to do with her and rejected her. I thought, 'Hmm, well, there's a reason not to look.' But then I did it anyway, with my friend's encouragement.

Claire found documentation with her biological mother's name, along with a narrative about why she was giving her baby up for adoption. Apparently, she was a midwestern college student who was sent to California to give birth and then went back to school. There was no information about who could have been her biological father. Claire immediately searched the internet for her biological mother's name and immediately found a match. She and her friend wrote an email, and Claire says she really had trouble knowing what to say. He wrote, "Hello, I'm here," along with his contact information. Her biological mother called her two days later. Claire was excited but also very ambivalent about sharing this information with her mother, who was terrified that Claire would abandon her. After reassuring her mother, Claire decided that sharing information with her mother was too difficult to continue, and neither of them brought up the subject again.

Claire describes her biological mother as very kind and willing to answer any questions as well as divulge who Claire's biological father was. This is troubling for Claire because it leaves an unanswered question that is important to her identity, as well as leading her to fear that there may have been a rape that resulted in a pregnancy.

When I first spoke to my biological mother, she was very welcoming and warm. He then told me that he had always thought of me and that he would appreciate any questions I had. I sent her some practical and medical questions, but I also asked about her. He's remarried, has kids, and what could he tell me about my biological father? She still hasn't answered those questions and I don't bring it up if we talk, which is sporadic.

Claire hasn't pressed the issue with her biological mother and hasn't taken a DNA test, and she's still curious who her father might be. She reports that she and her biological mother are alike in many ways, but that she still feels a little uneasy about how knowing she was adopted changed the course of her life, as she always felt a little unsure about who she was. He feels the force of the biological attraction, but also the force of the knowledge that his family isit isfamily.

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Beth has an adoption story similar to that of the other participants, but differs in one key respect: although all participants in this study had some sense of abandonment, Beth was actually abandoned on the steps of a Catholic church. small community. Beth says that she grew up knowing that she was adopted and doesn't remember being told. He has a brother five years older who is also adopted, as well as a sister who was the biological daughter of Beth's parents. Beth and her sister are nine months apart; Her parents were told they couldn't have children early on in their marriage, but her mother gave birth at the age of 41, which came as a shock to everyone.

Beth was 19 when her parents told her the circumstances of how they adopted her. She was in a college class and was asked to do a genealogy of her family. This is often a trigger for an adoptee because there's no real way to feel genuine about where someone fits in the family tree. Beth never asked many questions, so she decided the school project was the perfect time to learn about her background. Beth's parents chose not to tell her that she was abandoned at birth until they felt she was old enough to process the information.

They abandoned me on the steps of the Rectory of the Catholic Church of San José on the night of September 14, 1960. They didn't discover me until the next morning, when the priest was going to say mass. It was in a cardboard box and covered with a tea towel. Nothing more and I was blue. They took me to the hospital right away; It weighed five pounds and two ounces. However, I recovered!

According to Beth, the priest who found her made the decision who should adopt her, and her parents were part of the parish. There is some doubt about the legality of the adoption because there were never any legal documents and they did not go through the normal adoption channels. Beth's date of birth could only be speculated as no one could be sure what day she was actually born. This information shocked Beth, and she became determined to solve her personal "mystery". Since there was no real way to find out who abandoned her, Beth spent a lot of time trying to find information about her identity. Her father had assured her that he would do everything possible to help her find information about her biological parents. By the time Beth was ready to look, her parents had passed away.

Beth describes her childhood as very good. She mentions some issues within the family during the interview; he describes his mother as an emotionally distant woman who did not want children. Her parents were educators and expected achievement from their children. Beth excelled in school and planned to study medicine. Things changed for her after a neighbor molested her as a child, then molested her again when she was a little older. Beth thinks she was good at "putting on a show"; that she was a high achiever, class vice president, and active in her school. He was also breaking curfew, smoking pot and drinking, which was frustrating for her parents. Once Beth started college, she started experimenting with drugs and became promiscuous. She says she had an almost incredible ability to connect with unpleasant people and attributes this to her adoption and feeling worthless because even her own mother rejected her. Her relationships and two marriages were unsuccessful and were characterized by abuse and alcoholism. He had three children that she describes as "amazing". Beth felt a strong bond with her children, especially as they were the first biological relatives she had ever known. When her youngest son turned 18, she left her second husband and started on a path to try to heal. She started therapy, and although her therapist didn't know much about adoption issues, he was able to help Beth deal with the impact of sexual abuse and help her feel good about herself to begin the journey of finding out. where did she come from

Beth began her search at the local library where she lived (in the town where she had been abandoned). There seemed to be no way to get information until 2014 when he decided to get a DNA test. DNA helped by giving Beth her first insight into ethnic identity; the first real information about his biology he ever had. He also engaged the services of a "search angel", a woman who is frequently featured on television for her ability to trace genealogical information through DNA. Beth finally found an aunt through DNA matching, which was a huge breakthrough. She managed to get in contact with the woman and they started a kind of cat and mouse game about which of the aunt's brothers it might be. By process of elimination, Beth was able to find out who was in the area where she was born at the right time. She contacted her biological mother but was immediately rebuffed. In fact, her biological mother's husband threatened Beth if she contacted them again.

Dealing with rejection, I made the decision to send my mother a letter and pictures of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I just told her a little bit about myself and said I understood if she didn't want to contact me. I wanted to know who my father was and I would also like to know why you did what you did to me and what day I was actually born. I never received any response.

Her stepsister has been a little too forthcoming with some information, but Beth doesn't think she can go through with it on her mother's side until something changes. He was also able to locate his biological father through DNA matches. He was very receptive and very excited to learn that he has a daughter. Beth struggles with the pain of being rejected by her biological mother, but is hopeful of recovery, perhaps if her mother's current husband dies.


Gina seemed well prepared for the interview, because she started her story without warning. Although she said she doesn't say much about her adoption, she had a very structured narrative that almost felt like she was reading it. The investigator pointed this out to Gina and she laughed and said, “I don't actually think about it much, but I love the story my parents told.weabout how special our family was. In Gina's family there were four children; three are adopted and one is the biological child of parents who wanted a large family. Gina's parents were considered "older" when they had their first child. After giving birth, Gina's mother was bedridden for many months and was unable to have another child. They registered with the Children's Home Society, a statewide organization, and were told it could be a long time before they could welcome a child. Two years went by and they were asked if they would be interested in a baby who was very sick and likely to die. They accepted the child and nursed her back to health. Two years later, in an almost identical conversation, they were offered Gina, who was calcium deficient and would probably never walk. They adopted Gina, who walks and is visibly healthy. Another two years passed and they got another deaf girl, and they adopted her. Hi is normal. Gina says:

It's an incredible story! Just really miracles, one after another. I remember being in Sunday school when I was older and we were studying miracles. I asked my father if he had ever seen a miracle and he said I would have to think about it. I thought I would probably forget, but a few days passed and he handed me this typewritten letter. This was before computers! He wrote about all the things he thought were miracles, but it was mainly aboutwe– that we were miracles. My dad was amazing; amazing.

Gina was excited to tell her story and often referred to her life in terms of "miracles"; that her family is blessed one after another and that her parents always told them that they were miracles and that they should feel special. Gina says she always felt wanted and loved by her parents and only occasionally allowed herself to question her birth family. She didn't consider herself curious, but says she thought one day she would find out. As a child, she remembers knowing that she couldn't have information until she was eighteen, so she just put it out of her mind.

At eighteen, Gina left home for college and was taking a public speaking course in which she was supposed to present information on a topic of her choosing. She thought it would be the perfect time to investigate what happens when adoptees look for their biological families. Some of the stories she read looked like he was setting himself up for a headache, so he thought he probably shouldn't look. I didn't want the responsibility of potentially ruining anyone's happy life because I was curious. When she became pregnant with her only child, Gina worried that she didn't have any medical information to give the doctor. It bothered her that they knew about her husband's past but nothing about hers. She knew that her adoption was private and that her parents were not married. She spoke wistfully about her sister's search for her birth parents and the wonderful reunion they all had. Gina's father had already passed away, but she says that her mother was very upset about the search for Karen.

My parents thought that somehow Karen's biological parents had access to information about who we were, because when Karen started college, she lived in a house my parents owned and they found her. Her biological family found her, so she never had to look. He went to the university near where they lived and they knew her last name; my parents' surname. It was fascinating for Karen, but my mother was afraid of it. On the one hand, they were open withweabout our adoptions, but then they got very nervous about contacting us. I think it must be hard to worry that your child, the child you raised, might reject you.

When Gina had her daughter, her mother sold her house and moved into the same neighborhood as Gina. Gina now takes care of her mother and says that her daughter and her mother are very close. Gina's older brother, the biological son of her parents, is diagnosed with schizophrenia, and her other brother helps care for him. Although Gina is close to her mother, she is not very close to her siblings. Gina had some difficulties with relationships, including a long-term boyfriend who was quite abusive. She has had some struggles in her marriage, but she believes they managed to work things out. As long as her mother lived, she wouldn't think to look it up or even get a DNA test because she just wouldn't feel loyal. When asked directly how often she thinks about being adopted, she replied, "all the time."


Frank says he didn't know how old he was when he found out he was adopted; he says he "always knew". He thinks his parents rehearsed a story and then stuck with it throughout Frank's life. Frank would be embarrassed that his mother always introduced him as an adopted son, which made him feel so different. They had lost a biological son two years before adopting Frank, and he had always felt like a substitute for their lost son, Michael.

My parents had a biological child two years before adopting me. His name was Michael and, um, he was sort of the crown prince of the world. From my world, anyway. He died when he was three months old with SIDS, but I think back then they called it "cradle death" and nobody really understood. I know my mother felt tremendous guilt because she thought people would think she wasn't a good mother to Michael. She felt responsible and she was the one who found him dead in his crib, which then became my crib and that's fucked up.

Frank's mother took Michael's death very badly and was depressed for a long time. She tried to get pregnant but couldn't, so when Frank's dad told her there was a woman in her office helping a friend find a home for a baby, they decided to adopt. Frank was given Michael's room, crib, and clothes. His brother Jimmy was born a year later, and Frank thinks Jimmy's birth made him feel even more out of place. Although he was close with Jimmy, they were quite different and this was accentuated by his always being labeled the "foster" son. When Frank was six, his sister was born. He remembers that his parents didn't get along when he was about ten years old and his father started working twelve hours a day.

Frank fantasized about his birth parents all the time. He never felt like he fit in anywhere and did his best not to cause controversy or be particularly noticed. Meanwhile, Jimmy barely made it out of high school and was dabbling in drugs all the time. Frank talks about a "shrine" his mother built in her house for Michael and Frank remembers looking at a picture of Michael and wishing he was Michael so they would like him.

My father and mother fought a lot and once, my father told me that she was very different after Michael died. She was happy and smiling all the time. There was always a little shrine, we kids called it, in our living room to honor Michael. We all hated it, but mostly my dad, who saw him as a constant reminder of the life he didn't have. Because my mother was different. There was an imprint of her hands and feet. Can you imagine seeing this every day of your life to remember your dead son? It was terrible and I never had any friends because I hated having to explain the sanctuary. We all hate it, but we agree with my mother.

The family even had cake on Michael's birthday, and Frank can't stand birthday cake now because it reminds him of Michael. Reflecting on his childhood, Frank was very candid about how there were times when he was confused about who he was because the presence of his dead "brother" was part of his very identity.

Frank had problems with relationships and commitments. He got married because he thought it was what he should do, not what he wanted. He admits that he never wanted children and was upset when his wife got pregnant. He is proud of his son, although he regrets succumbing to his mother's pressure to name her son Michael. It only fueled his inability to define his life; he too has chosen to follow his father's career path and wonders if that's what he wanted for himself or just another way of trying to find acceptance. This part of the interview was especially difficult for Frank because he had never spoken so openly about his adoption or his experiences before. She saw a therapist shortly before her son was born but did not find it helpful. He didn't even think adoption was mentioned and didn't know it could have affected his feelings about becoming a father. Despite Frank's fears, he was very attached to his son and spent hours looking at Michael because it was the first time he felt a biological connection or looked like another person.

Frank tracked down his biological mother shortly after the birth of his son. She signed up for a service that connected biological parents and children. His biological mother was delighted to have met him and discovered that he had two biological half-sisters. They all get together from time to time and it's been a positive experience for Frank. He never told his mother that he had sought out and found his biological mother because he believed it would have been a betrayal. He really loved her and secretly wished he had been her "real" child. Frank felt guilt and remorse for not being able to replace Michael.

Frank's biological mother told him the truth about having to give him up for adoption. She desperately wanted to be with him, but she couldn't care for a child. His biological father refused to acknowledge that Frank was his son, even though Frank proved through DNA testing that the two are related. One of Frank's paternal half-brothers is in contact with him and has accepted him as a family member, although his biological father does not. He feels kinship with his biological family members, but is also ashamed that he is betraying his family. Frank hopes to start therapy and try to understand his experiences better.


Abby grew up in a very small Midwestern town and is the youngest of three foster children in her family. Her parents couldn't have children and Abby says this was a particularly painful issue for her mother. Abby didn't think it was particularly important that she was adopted, and thought adoption was as natural as babies coming out of a stork! She says:

We were all adopted, so in our family it was normal. I was probably five or six when I was told I was adopted and I didn't care much at the time. I didn't know what it meant, so it was something I grew up listening to. It never bothered me; it was just another way of being. I think it probably bothered my mom the most, but we all talk about our dads like they're normal dads. This is mutual between me and my brothers.

Abby remembers lashing out at her mother as a teenager, telling her, "I'm glad you're not really my mom", but always regretting it afterwards. Abby has no information about the nature of her adoption and has never seen any documents. She alternately talks about not being curious about her birth family and wondering what they're like. She revealed that she sometimes sees people or pictures of people and wonders if they might be related to her, and she sometimes worries that she doesn't have her own medical history. You made a conscious decision not to have children. She said the kids are "very expensive" but also says being adopted played a big part in her choice. Rather than elaborate on this, he mentioned the fact that there are many unwanted children in need of a home.

Abby also seemed conflicted when talking about ethnic backgrounds. When asked about her ethnicity, Abby would simply laugh and say that she was "only white" and it was never important for her to know more. However, he has also been vocal about messing with DNA evidence and has even gone so far as to take a test. When he received his results, he ignored them and never looked at them again. You've thought about trying out some of the more well-known sites, but you don't want to spend any money. She also spoke about how it would be nice for her birth parents to know she's okay, but how considerate of her it would just be for them. Many times during the interview Abby contradicted her own statements, not in an apparent attempt to deceive in any way, but because she apparently has ambivalence about her feelings and experiences.

Abby describes a childhood that was stable in some ways, but also marked by her father's abusive behavior towards her mother. She says he isolated her mother from the family and mocked her for being a drug user because she needed insulin to control her diabetes.

My dad wasn't always the best person and they got divorced when I was sixteen. It didn't bother me one bit, but I was very angry with my mother for later remarrying him. She was diabetic and he called her a drug addict because she used insulin. He was very controlling. He didn't like her smoking, so one time he caught her, got mad and tried to set her clothes on fire. The kids were all there and we would fight with him and push him away. He wasn't that abusiveweas he was to her.

Abby graduated from high school a year early and immediately left home, heading west with a friend. Her parents were waiting for him to return from the trip and were upset when he said he would visit them but would never come back. She is the only high school graduate among her siblings and the only college graduate in her family. One of her brothers was arrested for sexually abusing a child, but she isn't sure of the details. Discussing this, Abby states that her family must not have been very close, and this realization seemed to disturb her a bit. She recognizes that she and her siblings are very different and that she always felt different from the kids she went to school with in her small town. She sees herself as adventurous and creative, while the friends she grew up with still live in the same community and live lives very similar to her own parents. He's tried adjusting to try and fit in with the other kids she grew up with, but he's long since given up on the idea that she has to be someone other than who he is.


(Video) Interpretive Frameworks for Qualitative Research

Of all the participants interviewed for this study, David seemed to know the most about DNA and parentage tracing. He was adopted at birth and his parents have a biological son two years younger than David. He believes his mother didn't want her own children for reasons David doesn't understand, but she ended up getting pregnant anyway. David says that his mother told him that he was adopted, and he remembers that this conversation took place around the same time that the family moved to Southern California (for a year). He thinks he was about eight years old and that he didn't take the news well; he couldn't understand how his parents could love someone other than their own son. His parents took him to see a therapist who talked to him and gave him a book on adoption. He doesn't remember much about the experience with his therapist, but he says:

I remember most of it quite clearly. We used to live in Reno, but we moved to San Diego because my dad was on a gap year at UCSD. My mother told me and I reacted with the idea that they didn't want me anymore. It didn't make sense for you to love someone who wasn't yours, you know; it's not really your child. The counselor was nice and all, but I don't think the adoption was really the focus; It was a long time ago.

David thinks that finding out he was adopted changed his relationship with his family, especially his brother. He says, "It's not that they treated me differently from that moment on, it's that I was suddenly different." He remembers that he always had doubts about his origins. She says that if asked about her “real parents”, her mother would always say thattheythey were her real parents, so she learned to choose carefully what she would tell her parents about her curiosity. David took several DNA tests to maximize his chances of locating his biological relatives. He located and met his biological mother, and the story she told him is compelling. Her birth mother had been hired as a teacher, but when she found out she was pregnant, she had to leave to have the baby. As she left suddenly, she was unable to find another job as a teacher after she had David. His biological father was a Navy pilot and was going to be deployed to Vietnam. He was recently divorced and already had two children, so he wasn't interested in starting a new family. David's biological mother later married and had another son, whom she also named David. The half-brothers met and were amazed at their resemblance, and David has a nephew who looks just like him. David also managed to find out who his biological father is through DNA testing, but was disowned by his biological father. He believes he has a half-sister two months younger than he is, which, if true, would invalidate his biological mother's account of what happened. David has done extensive research using DNA. He says:

Although my biological mother did not name me after my biological father, I was able to find out using Y-DNA. What appeared to be a second cousin turned up on Ancestry.com. So I had a direction from there and started building (family) trees. I must have spent thousands of hours trying to make sense of things and trying to bring people together. Now it's amazing what you can find on Ancestry.com. Change people's stories.

Relationships are often difficult for David. He was married for twelve years, but he and his wife had a lot of problems; she really wanted kids and David says no. He now has a girlfriend and they have been together for a few years now. She insists that she doesn't want to get married because she's had failed marriages. He hopes she changes her mind eventually.

David believes that adoption has made his life more difficult in ways that non-adopted people would not understand. He struggled with depression after finding out he was adopted, finding it hard to trust people because he wasn't who he thought he was for the first eight years of his life. She thinks the secrecy is awful and that maybe if people were more open and honest about adoptees, some of the problems wouldn't be as pronounced. David now spends a lot of time helping other adoptees find information about their biological families.


Helen was ambivalent about discussing her adoption experience and expressed this to the investigator. "It's really not something I've talked about outside of my family." She describes herself as an introvert who is generally uncomfortable talking about herself, viewing her family as close and her parents as very loving. She doesn't remember hearing that she was adopted, but she doesn't think her parents kept secrets from her, although there was scorn if adoption was mentioned. Her only brother is three years older than Helen and was also adopted. Helen had no information about her birth parents while she was growing up and didn't start looking until she was in her 30s. When she was 20, she asked her brother if he wondered where she came from, and her mother scolded her for "breaking her father's heart". helena says:

I guess I've always been interested in learning about my biological parents, but since I'm never politically correct about anything, I just blurted it out at the table and made everyone uncomfortable. I never wanted to be in the position of responsibility for someone else's pain, so when my mother told me that she had broken my father's heart by asking my brother if he was curious, I just stopped. I didn't mention it again and I didn't really look it up until I was 30. I had a friend who could find out anything about anyone and she really got me started. I actually wrote to the adoption agency that handled my adoption and they sent me a letter with vague information and the first names of my biological parents. This letter also contained the standard "you would be better off" statement. Somehow I let time pass after that.

Helen started looking on her own; he had three children when he was in his early 30s and thought he should know something about his heritage. In fact, he was able to find some birth records that included his biological mother's name. Although she was unable to find her biological mother, she was able to track down her uncle, who gave her a lot of information before finding out who she was and breaking off communication. Helen has never thought about taking a DNA test, but she thinks she might want to eventually. She thinks her life is going well despite the adoption, but her brother has serious mental health issues and the two don't speak to each other. Her family moved frequently while Helen was growing up, so she's not sure if the changes caused her problems or if she was adopted. She always had to reinvent herself and never had a clear idea of ​​who she was.

Helen was sometimes bothered by the fact that she didn't look like anyone else; therefore, when she had her first child, she felt a little angry with her biological mother; "If I knew her, I would just forgive her." Helen thought that since her biological mother had the financial wherewithal to care for a child, not being with her was almost a form of birth control. Helen is close to her own children and her husband. They have been married for 35 years. He doesn't have many friends because he learned early on that people come and go; she thinks that if she doesn't do what is expected of her, he will be rejected. She's not sure if this is his "foster-me" perspective or the result of not staying anywhere long enough as a kid to make lasting friends.

Helen doesn't have a relationship with her brother and says they were never very close. This wasn't a difficult relationship for her to leave, because she never felt a real bond with him, and he didn't seem particularly interested in her either. She says:

It's very rare; He definitely has issues, but I can't tell you what they are or what his actual diagnosis is. He was never interested in meeting his biological family, but I'm not sure if that's because he didn't want to hurt our parents. They were really good to us. While I suppose we were a happy family, we weren't that close. Moving so often keptwebusy trying to configure and redefine our lives all the time.

Helen feels a kinship with other adoptees and tries to find levity in whatever she can to counteract her fear of rejection. Helen has not sought counseling for herself because there are things she probably doesn't want to know about herself. Her daughter is a therapist and she chases after Helen to go see a therapist to sort out some childhood related stuff; Helen is considering this request. “Maybe talking about it is a good thing. There may be more to all of this than I ever considered."

Table 4.1 (below) is a summary of certain demographic and contextual variables for each participant.

Table 4.1 Summary of participant demographic and contextual variables

YearsAdoption knowledge ageadoption status

(open close)

Contact with biological family?Mental health issues?
fill up55I always knewUnknownSimSim
Is it over there474CerradoSimSim
franco51I always knewCerradoSimNot
gina48I always knewCerradoNotSim


This section explores the themes that were present in each interview with the participants. In some cases, the researcher sought clarification from participants during a second interview on selected topics to determine meaning. For example, when describing the experience of "alterity", a pair of participants used language such as "foreign" or "different" to describe feeling different from non-adoptes. This was important to ensure that the researcher correctly interpreted the language used by the participants. Themes provide highlights of each participant's thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Topic 1: Feeling of 'alterity' or difference from the non-adopted

The elements that make up the theme of theFeeling of 'otherness' or difference from the non-adoptedare alienation; anxiety about your appearance; and an inability to fit in with friends and relatives.Feeling of 'otherness' or difference from the non-adoptedencompasses the awareness that there is a difference in family structure (real or perceived) between members of the biological family and members of the adoptive family. In many cases, this can also be projected onto an adoptee from outside the family. “Otherness” is represented in different contexts for the participants and is explained through textural and composite descriptions as follows:

Is it over there

She spoke profusely about always feeling different; this has been her experience since almost her earliest memories. She says her adoptive mother told her she was adopted when she was four and remembers being devastated by the information. He also describes telling stories about her origins throughout his childhood that rang false and mysterious, contributing to his sense of "otherness".

Everything about me felt strange. I literally felt like I didn't belong on the planet; not only did he not belong in my adoptive family, he did not belong on the planet! I was left-handed and very smart, but my adoptive family didn't value intelligence. Appearances were important. My mother was very pretty and I was a very fat boy; big and awkward, and I think he looked autistic or something. My mom was super fashion conscious, super people conscious, and I couldn't care less.

She thinks her sister (also adopted) did better than she did. He seemed to be able to fit in with the family better than Ella.

It was fully integrated. She believed in abuse and knew the only way she could compete with me was through my father. I was the smart one and she wasn't very smart. I was smart and she was pretty, and my dad told me that if I was as pretty as my sister, he would love me more. He would say it in front of her and she used it to make fun of me. She was more capable of playing than I was, and that didn't change much in our lives. He still lives with our mother. She's 45 and still can't take care of herself, but she really doesn't need to.

Her adoptive parents did little to help Ella feel like she belonged. She remembers comments they made about her appearance and behavior that made her feel different and undesirable. Come to think of it, Ella reports that she's glad she doesn't have a biological relationship with her adoptive parents or sister, although she sometimes has a hard time feeling connected to her family. “I think for me it's good that he was adopted. I would hate to be a Hopkins born! Disgusting! Rude! You know, I wish I had learned something good about my family in general. I didn't learn anything.


Claire is ambivalent about feeling different from her adoptive family. At 12 years old, she was older than the other participants when she learned of her adoption. This part of the interview was clearly painful for Claire (as it was for many of the participants) and brought tears to her eyes. Claire was the middle child of her adoptive family. She is the only adopted one of the three and has always believed that she and her sisters were alike.

My dad and I were in the garage stacking firewood. I always enjoyed being his helper. He blurted out that I was adopted. It's funny, I don't remember the conversation we had before he said that. Somehow I swept it under the rug for a while before I started asking questions. It was a complete shock. I didn't believe it and thought he was joking. It was difficult to process the information. It's hard to describe how I felt, but I guess it's normal to feel a little distant. Especially at age 12. My older sister also knew and kept the secret. I was seven when they got me, so remember they brought me home. Maybe it's not that I feel different, but that I feel a little unfinished or incomplete. Something is missing; something not complete

Claire believes that her relationship with her unadopted younger sister has changed upon learning of Claire's adoption. When her younger sister got mad at Claire, she used adoption to hurt Claire. This would cause her parents to defend Claire vehemently, which made Claire feel more out of touch.

My parents always came to my rescue when Sally was being mean. I could tell my parents didn't mind that I was adopted because I was theirs; I was a gift, a family member who held the family together. That's what they told me, so it was really hard for me to understand why my little sister was so mean to me. I mean, I know she was a little girl, but it was really hard and made me not feel like a real member of the family. It was all a little confusing for me; what they said and what she said to me. My older sister wasn't part of it, but she was so much older that she didn't seem to be part of things when the truth about my adoption came out. And this was all during my high school years, which is the worst possible time.

fill up

Beth's adoption was a little different from the other participants, as she was abandoned on the steps of a newborn church. Although she grew up knowing that she was adopted, she didn't learn the full story until she was 19. That added layer of difference made Beth feel even more distant and more curious about her origins:

I was doing an assignment for my Women's Studies class my sophomore year. We had to do our genealogy or our family tree. I remember it was Thanksgiving and I asked my parents what they knew about my biological parents. It was then that they told me that they had abandoned me. On the surface I think I did pretty well, but looking back I can see that my adoption affected the decisions I made and how I felt about myself; my place in the world. I felt absolutely different from everyone else.

Beth was close to her adoptive parents, although she describes her mother as distant. Beth doesn't think she really wanted children, although she got pregnant almost immediately after adopting her. Beth's sense of self-worth was very negative; "On the outside she seemed to have it all, but on the inside she was the most insecure and needy person." She saw herself as dichotomous, which always made her feel different from others.


Gina accepted adoption as a normal part of her life. He had three brothers, two of whom were also adopted. She also has cousins ​​who were adopted, so she grew up believing that families were like that. She never felt a sense of "otherness" until she was a young adult and told by a friend that she was breaking off her engagement to her boyfriend because he was adopted.

He told me that they broke up because he was adopted and she insisted that she didn't want to have a child with someone whose history they didn't know. I'm like, 'Wow,' because I never thought of adoption as anything more than normal until she said it to me. Maybe he didn't mean it; that it was just an excuse, but for her to choose to tell me that was such a negative thing.

Gina also remembers being 18 and in college, taking Speech 101 and choosing adoption as the topic of a research project. He found that the literature tended not to look for biological parents, but still had some desire to know their medical history. She did nothing, and the idea resurfaced when she got pregnant in her 30s. She felt some anxiety about not having a medical record to do midwifery, and that also made her feel a little different from other women.

We sat down with the doctor and although I never really asked if I should look up my birth parents or family medical history. I explained to him things about being adopted and if he had told me to look it up I would have. Instead he told me not to worry about it. We would assume everything was fine and go from there. He said it wasn't a big deal so I just moved on. I know it was an uncomfortable feeling not having all the information that other people have to ensure a safe pregnancy. It just looked different, but I didn't push it forward.


Of all the participants, Frank spoke the most about his sense of difference. He is the oldest of three siblings and the only adopted one in his family. His parents had a son who died at the age of three months. They tried to have another child but failed to conceive. Someone in her father's office started talking about a friend who was looking for a foster family for her baby, and this seemed to be the answer to her infertility problems. Frank describes it humorously, but there were tears in his eyes several times during the interview and he is clearly shocked by her narrative:

I always felt like a commodity! My parents paid my biological mother's expenses and she pretty much gave up on me. My brother was born a year and a day after me. My brother and I were close as kids and we liked the same things. I would feel terribly guilty when people comment on how much we look alike; my mother dressedwein the same way too. Even though I desperately wanted to belong, I felt like a fraud all the time when people said things. Even worse when my mother announced that I was adopted and my brother was her natural child. Isn't that a clear message that an adopted child is somehow unnatural?

Frank recalls his mother's subsequent pregnancy with his sister, who was born when he was six. He describes seeing his belly grow and feeling even less of a part of his family because he wasn't carried by his adoptive mother. Frank, like many of the participants in this study, also mentioned feeling different when asked to do genealogy or family related school work. He says:

My parents thought I would be fine using their information for my family tree projects. It just made me feel even more deeply like a fraud. I remember pretending to be sick so I wouldn't have to stand in front of my class and talk about my family background. The truth is, I didn't think her story fit and I had no idea who I was or where I came from. On the one hand, they teach you that lying is bad, and on the other hand, they tell you that it's okay to lie about who you are. I mean, can a legal document really make a lie inconsequential?


Like Frank, Abby also uses humor when talking about her adoption. She is one of three adopted children who are two years apart from each other. He was raised in a small Midwestern town and grew up with a rather static group of kids. She doesn't remember anyone actually talking about her adoption or thinking anyone cared. She talks about his experience:

We were all adopted at birth and I don't remember a specific conversation we had or talked about in depth. I just think that our parents are just oursregularcountry! You know, you came from a stork and I came this way. It never bothered me as a kid; things were not talked about much. Now, I wonder about medical things because of my age. Doctors treat you differently when you're adopted. I think they assume the worst and try everything.

Abby sees their personal differences as more related to her desire not to live in the Midwest. He left home at age 17, having graduated high school early. His mother got married at 16, so Abby was determined not to make similar decisions. She sees herself as a "free-spirited person" and likes to believe that's what makes her unique. “I knew who I was not. I was not the person that the people I studied with were. I wanted more.


David is a soft-spoken man who has a lot of information about his biological family. He has a brother who is the biological son of his adoptive parents. They are two years apart and he felt he was sometimes treated differently than his brother. David reports that he didn't take the information well upon learning that he was adopted; I was about eight years old. The bill:

I remember feeling miserable and wondering how my parents could love me if I wasn't really theirs. My mother tried to comfort me, but I ended up seeing a counselor at that point. The counselor was nice enough, but I don't think she knew much about adoption. It was a long time ago, but I know he gave me a book on adoption. A book with a whale that talked about being chosen. The difficult thing is for adopted children to feel like orphans, even though they are not. I don't want to generalize too much, but even if the alienation isn't real, if it's just perceived as real, the feeling is still there.

Although David feels very close to his parents, he started looking for his birth parents when he was 18 years old. She would ask her parents questions about her birth parents, but they would take offense at her questions and insist they were hers.TRUTHcountry. She hasn't discussed finding her biological parents with her adoptive parents because she thinks they would be offended. He doesn't think they would understand her feeling of alienation.


Helen didn't say much about her adoption and acknowledged that it was difficult to discuss. He learned this early on, because if he brought up the subject, he found out that he was hurting his mother and that generalized to not say anything about it. He has an older brother who was also adopted. His family moved every three years during his childhood, so Helen was forced to reinvent herself each time. Being adopted wasn't part of her narrative, but it wasn't far from the surface. helena says:

I just grew up knowing I was adopted and there really wasn't a lot of talk about it in our house. If I felt different for any reason, there was no discussion. I remember sitting at the dinner table one night when I was 20 and I asked my brother if he ever wondered where he came from. The next day, my mother said that she hoped I would know that I had broken my father's heart with my comment. That's when I stopped and decided it wasn't worth hurting my parents because I felt out of place. So, in my 30s, I started looking for the real thing. It's hard to explain what it's like to be adopted or understand what it's like not to be adopted. It's like trying to describe love.

During the interview, Helen vacillated between her feelings of independence and her somewhat shaky sense of self. She spoke about how she felt strongly attached to her firstborn son, which sparked strong feelings about how a mother could give up her child.

It is clear from the participants' speeches that the feeling of otherness or non-belonging is a common trait among them. The need to seek information seems to be related to the need to connect, and this is something experienced by adoptees who believe they grew up in a good home and those who believe they did not. It is also difficult for an adoptee to understand how to navigate feelings of otherness within the context of their adoptive family. In addition to learning to deal with their own thoughts and feelings, they must also be continually aware of the feelings of their parents and siblings.

Theme 2: Identity

As a concept, the theme ofIdentityIt is other thanFeeling of 'otherness' or difference from the non-adoptedinsofar as it encompasses developmental narratives and how an individual sees himself in relation to others. It is the result of life experiences and is more of a definition than a feeling. The invariant constituents that make up the subject ofIdentityin the context of adoption not having information about themselves and/or not being able to adapt the information of the adoptive family to the formation of identity. While the components of identity are fluid, there are some basic details that lay the foundation of identity, such as heredity and physical characteristics (one's appearance is part of that). When babies are born, it's common for friends and family to try to determine who the child looks like. For an adoptee, this serves to further alienate and make identity more difficult to construct.

Is it over there

Identity is something Ella has eluded for most of her life. She describes being uncomfortable growing up; her mother was a beauty queen, although Ella says she was "very shallow". When she turned 18, she was already living away from her family. She had been transferred between relatives and a boarding school. He also spent time in a psychiatric hospital, where he says he was told he was fine but his family was toxic.

So I never told anyone this whole story! After wandering around, living with my grandparents and one of my mom's boyfriends for a while, they sent me to boarding school. This after her boyfriend's brother tried to abuse me and I wasn't willing to accept it. I attempted suicide and was admitted to a psychiatric institution. The lady I worked with told me to get over it. That he wasn't crazy; they were crazy. I had a few more years and then I needed to get out. I just got played, played, played. He had no idea who he was or where he belonged.

While Ella says she struggled to figure out who she was and where she fit in, she hasn't had much success getting to know her birth parents. They were still together when she found them through an internet search. Ella and her birth parents tried to forge a relationship, but Ella didn't feel like she fit in with them either. They chose to stay with Ella's older brother, but her biological father didn't want to stay with her. She says she respects his decision knowing what he wanted. It was nice to be a little like someone else, but there were too many factors that Ella didn't like for her to be able to maintain a relationship with them.

I don't have a full identity, but after a certain point, I'm not sure it's necessary. I have a kind of Buddhist vision in which I can believe that I am all things; I am one with everything. After years of searching for identity, it is now less important. I really thought that finding my biological parents would fill in all the gaps, but it didn't. Maybe they just can't be filled that way, I don't know. I couldn't relate to my adoptive family and I couldn't relate to my biology either. I think I'm fine to be who I want to be, without the limitations of any family.


Claire was much older than the other seven contestants when she found out she was adopted. She remembers feeling like she was as much a part of her family as her sisters were before she found out. When her father decided it was time for Claire to know that she was adopted, he broke the news in a very matter-of-fact way. Claire was stunned.

It never occurred to me that I wasn't part of the family. We all look alike; We have blonde hair and blue eyes, so we're physically alike. People were always commenting on how much we looked alike. I'm taller and bigger than my sisters, but my dad was tall, so nothing messed with me. It was a complete shock; At first I didn't believe it and thought my father must be joking. It was really hard to process because it changed everything I knew about myself and I didn't know what to do with it all. Who was I now?

Though Claire never thought her parents would treat her any differently, before or after being told that she was adopted, Claire suddenly feels different and wonders if her relationship with her sisters would be any different if they didn't know about her adoption.

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Beth considers her adoption a blessing; she generally felt happy and secure in her family. She is the only adopted child of her parents; he has a brother five years older and a sister nine months younger. Beth has never felt that she was treated any differently and remains close to her sister. She hadn't really thought to look for her biological family until she found out that she had been abandoned as a child on the steps of a church.

Finding out that I was abandoned, that my mother just dumped me, seemed to be one of the factors that led me to make some bad decisions in life. I knew adoption and abuse as a child took a toll on me, but abandonment meant I was really worthless. DNA testing allowed me to try to figure out who I was and where I came from. It was compelling, but each piece of information I found made me want to know more and helped me to see myself more fully.

At the time of the interview, Beth had all the information available about her biological parents. With the help of what Beth describes as a "good" therapist, she was able to deal with the difficulties that come with not having a complete identity. She didn't have a therapist who knew about adoption issues, and she also wished someone had told her parents that she might need help with her feelings, especially abandonment. Beth says that “the attitude was that you need to let go and get on with your life. You've formed a perfect little family and you don't need anything else.


Gina was in foster care for a few months before her parents adopted her. They were told that she had a calcium deficiency and might never be able to walk, but she talks about how her parents loved her and cared for her back to health. That's their narrative, and Gina can't question it since they saved her life. Her interviews were full of gratitude, but there were also uncertainties about who she is. When Ginny talked about questioning her origins or being curious, her voice softened a lot to almost a whisper, as if talking about it was disrespectful.

I guess I never thought about it much. We had our family history about how we all came into our family and that became the defining story for me. NoneweI thought about what we looked like, except for my sister Karen, but she's Mexican and she looks different than the rest of us. Maybe that's why he felt he needed to find his biological parents. I didn't question who I was or where I came from unless it came up. Well, maybe I thought so, but I didn't want to hurt anyone by asking questions. I guess I never thought it was important, but maybe it is. Maybe I don't know who I am and that's why I made some of the decisions I made; maybe it doesn't have an identity of its own in the end.

Gina says her husband always encourages her to see a therapist, but she doesn't. The investigator asked Gina if she thought she could find out about her birth family and still tell her adoption story, and she said that she had never considered it, but thought she probably could.


When the investigator initially contacted Frank, he was happy to participate but didn't think he would have much to say. It turned out to be wrong, and Frank says he was surprised that he had such strong feelings and could talk so easily about his adoption. He struggled with identity from an early age, as he felt unable to replace the son his parents had lost before adopting him. Frank doesn't think there would be

they adopted him if they thought they could have another biological child, but his mother wasn't pregnant so they adopted him.

Once, when someone asked me how many brothers and sisters I had, I replied that I had a brother, a sister, and a ghost. I was adopted to replace Michael and never made it. I mean, I wore his baby clothes when I was a baby. How crazy is that? I was looking at pictures and wishing I was Michael. Everyone knew I was adopted after Michael's death and didn't know who I was; Even as a kid, he thought things through and tried to do what he thought Michael would do. I mean, he was a little baby when he died, who knows what he would have been or done. Talk about identity issues! I hated my own name and would sometimes tell people my name was Michael when they asked me why I felt good for a minute.

Frank agrees that not having a sense of self caused relationship problems. He also thinks that his choice to become a civil engineer like his father was because he had no idea what he might want for himself.

It's not that I'm not happy with my career choice or anything, but I think I became an engineer as a way to connect with my dad. He was very proud of it, but it caused a lot of problems with Jimmy, who just graduated from high school. I think he went back and forth with me, sometimes he liked me and sometimes he pissed me off. I think he felt a little awkward about Michael's situation. Maybe he felt like a substitute too. Identity is also a reason why she didn't want children. You know, how can you raise a healthy child if you don't even know who you are?

Frank thinks it might have been helpful if his parents had taken him to a therapist. When he sought advice as an adult, adoption never came up. She hadn't thought of it as a factor in her marriage, but now she sees it clearly. "How can you know how to be happy with someone else when you haven't learned how to be happy with who you are?"


Rather than simply assuming the identity provided by her adoptive family, Abby has adopted the identity of what she describes as "small town, midwest". She says:

I don't have any information about myself; I never asked my parents and they never spoke about it. I look very white, not necessarily American, but white! I'm pretty sure I'm Irish and German or something. It might be something from the Midwest, but no one asks. I guess that's how I identify, but not exactly. I'm not like the kids I grew up with. They all still live in the same place where they grew up. She couldn't wait to leave the Midwest and knew she was never coming back.

Abby does not identify intellectually with her parents or siblings. Her parenting choices frustrated Abby, who describes her father as abusive. Throughout the interview, Abby described herself as different from her family in every way. When asked by the investigator if she recognized this, Abby responded that she had not realized she was doing this and said:

Maybe I was doing the opposite of what I thought and I needed to find out who I was so much that I left... I don't know. I just knew it wasn't that person; I wasn't like the people I went to school with. I moved to Tahoe, which is as far away from my hometown in the Midwest as possible. Maybe I'm like my biological family; I don't know where I got that from and maybe I should have taken the time to find out.


David worked harder on his identity than the other contestants. He struggled when he found out he was adopted as a boy. His parents took him to see a therapist, and that helped him to believe that his family loved him. However, the therapy did not address the issues of his adoption that were troubling for David. Her parents weren't willing to answer her questions about her biological family, so she learned to work around them to get answers.

I had a lot of questions so when I located my biological mother I thought I knew what to ask. Like, I wanted to know if my birthday was really my birthday or if I had siblings. My biological mother happened to have another child, and when we met, I was surprised that one of her children looked so much like me. It's kind of funny; no one has ever looked like me before.

DNA really helped David find information about his biological family. His biological mother had already taken a DNA test and told David that she was sorry at first because she thought it might lead to him finding her, which it did. She was accepting of David and told him the story of her beginnings, but she didn't give him any details about her biological father. He was also able to locate paternal relatives through DNA testing. He hasn't met his biological father yet, but he knows he has a half-sister who is just two months younger. Even with information about his biological family, David has struggled with identity.

While the pieces are there, I don't fit in with them any better than I do with my adoptive family. It's good to know medical stuff; As my biological father has Alzheimer's so now it's a concern for me. But I'm a little out of both realms, but it's good to have information anyway.


Helen discussed identity in relation to adoption, as well as the fact that her father's job required her family to move every few years. Helen learned to “reinvent” herself. She had never spoken much about her adoption, not even with her brother, who is also adopted.

I probably have identity issues, but I think it's been hard to separate what's due to adoption and what's due to change all along. It got harder and harder for me as I got older. I had a loving family, but I knew I wasn't much like them. I didn't look like anyone else, but I remember reading about something called "mirror self". I'm not who I think I am; I'm not who you think I am; I am who I think you think I am. It suits me, but it's difficult.

Helen described her strong feelings when her children were born. “It's like, 'I have a branch. I have a branch. She is very attached to her children and accepts her identity as a mother, in part because they are hers to provide for.

With everyone else in my life, I always knew I would have to let them go. I could never let someone 'in' too much because I have to let go so it's easier not to. I don't know if this is adoption, but it kept me from being able to define myself except in fantasy. I wondered where things came from, who I was; Maybe my mother was Marilyn Monroe! That was my secret fantasy; I knew my mother had to be Marilyn Monroe!

Identity seems important to each participant, and each describes their struggles with identity formation. There is difficulty in finding information about heritage and not being able to differentiate between what fits and what others think should fit; that knowing biology is an important part of identity development, but it is not always available. This theme ran through each interview over and over again; each participant recognized the difficulty that adoption presents in defining who they are.

Theme 3: Loyalty

The invariant constituents that make up the loyalty theme were others' expectation of gratitude for being loved; being chosen versus being born into a family; and don't ask questions that might make the other person uncomfortable. The concept of loyalty can mean a variety of things, depending on the context in which it is judged. Loyalty as a theme permeated each interview as an almost non-negotiable fact; that being adopted means being loyal and feeling enormous gratitude for having been “chosen” by a family to raise you and take care of you. There was little hesitation among participants in describing this experience, and four out of eight participants cried when describing the loyalty.

Is it over there

Although Ella described herself as very independent, she always sought connection with others. Sometimes Ella thought that fierce loyalty would lead to connection and acceptance, but in reality it led to disappointment and distance. She describes a lifelong struggle between independence and loyalty:

I'm so, so loyal. I'd say I'm loyal to an extreme and when I meet someone for the first time, maybe I push too hard for them to like me. I'm loyal to people even when they don't deserve it. Even when they weren't loyal to me. Growing up, I sacrificed my own perceptions and needs to maintain my mother's happiness. I've also stayed in relationships many times because I made a promise, regardless of whether couples keep their promises.

She worked hard as an adult to break free of some of the habits that made her believe she needed to be loyal in order to be loved. This has helped her with her current boyfriend, with whom she believes she has a healthy relationship, which is new to her.


For Claire, loyalty is an important factor in her relationship with her aging mother. Her two sisters, biological daughters of her adoptive parents, live in other states, while Claire decided to return to the community where she grew up after graduating from college. This led to her committing to being her foster mother's caretaker, although this was never her intention. Her adoptive father passed away when she was 23 and she felt she didn't have enough time with him. Still, Claire expresses that she wishes her sisters were more involved in their mother's care, but they both seem a little cocky about making time to help out.

Claire's feelings related to curiosity about her adoption are corrupted to some extent because her mother is uncomfortable talking about Claire's adoption and Claire is sensitive to her mother's feelings. Although Claire had felt better able to discuss the adoption with her father, she knew her parents didn't agree to tell Claire anything. Claire describes turning 50 and deciding to approach her mother for information:

I was at a friend's house just before my birthday and she thought it would be a unique idea to get in touch with my biological mother. I agreed and we planned how we would do this. I went to my mother and asked for my adoption papers. She was hesitant and I remember feeling terribly disloyal for asking. In the end, when I located my biological mother, it turned out that my mother was afraid of losing me. She cried and I assured her that she didn't miss me, but I never spoke to her about it again. I felt so much guilt.

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Beth struggles with loyalty and sees it as an issue she continues to struggle with. This sometimes confuses her, because she says her adoptive parents never made her feel disloyal by asking questions about her adoption. she tells:

My parents were never one to make me feel disloyal for asking for anything. It was more people outside the family who told me how grateful I should be to have such wonderful parents, and I was. No exception. But my parents never made me feel that way. However, I felt a sense of loyalty and was aware that I would never want to hurt my parents.

The distinction between feeling disloyal and feeling loyal was important to Beth. She wanted to make it clear that her personal feelings of loyalty were not a result of her parents' words or actions, but because she wanted to be safe and not interrupt the relationship she had with them. Although Beth's parents have passed away, she still values ​​loyalty to them and has always considered this in her dealings with biological relatives. She didn't ask questions about her adoption until age 19, when she was told that she had been abandoned at birth. Beth says that she always had a fantasy in her head about who her birth parents were and that she wasn't really interested in giving up; this seemed a little disloyal to Beth at times, but she kept to it as she grew up.


The notion of loyalty runs through Gina's adoption narrative like a thread: it is directly present in her words and is an undercurrent that speaks to the importance of her family. She has always been very close to her parents, and her decision to ignore her curiosity about her biological family is based on her oath of loyalty. She describes this as a very excited voice that becomes quiet (almost a whisper) when speaking out of curiosity:

I think there were times when I got curious, but probably only when I was having a bad day or fighting with my mother or whatever. However, he would never have wanted to tell her that. I really felt like I got a better deal, and when I thought about researching it, I was reminded of how lucky I was. So yes, I'm loyal; my husband would say I'm loyal to satiety!

When Gina talks about curiosity in her interview, she always translates her feelings into loyalty and gratitude. In a follow-up conversation I mentioned this to her and she acknowledged that it seems disloyal to her mother (her father passed away) to think too much of her biological family, so maybe that's why she tries to focus on her good. lucky to have a loving family to grow up with.


(Video) IMCCRT-2022-2033 Title: A Phenomenological Analysis on the Child Rearing Experiences of Dadings with

Loyalty came up a lot during Frank's interview and has been a major theme in his life, impacting all of his relationships. Frank struggled between never feeling like he belonged anywhere and feeling a deep love for his mother, who had lost a baby before Frank was born. He struggled with depression from time to time during Frank's childhood, and on those occasions he felt he had to do whatever he could to be a good son for her to be happy. Nobody talked about feelings much in Frank's family, so he never understood why there were times when his mother couldn't get out of bed or cried for no apparent reason. Frank describes his experience:

I remember many times I couldn't figure out what it was supposed to be or what it was supposed to be doing. It seems my dad worked more and wasn't home when my mom wasn't feeling well. I just remember feeling a lot of anxiety. Sometimes I would think of my real parents during these times and imagine that we would all be together and having fun. Then I felt terrible and angry with myself for having these thoughts, you know? That my real parents were probably homeless or drug addicts. They didn't love me and my mom and dad did and I needed to be loyal and good. My brother and sister didn't seem as affected as I did, and that confused me. How were they not more loyal? They were wanted; they were natural children and I was a bit artificial at the time, by definition in my own head. I was always confused, and when I look at pictures of myself as a kid, I think I always looked confused. Eyes and mouth wide open!

Loyalty was a major force in Frank's childhood, but in describing how he dealt with his conflicted feelings, he acknowledged that he became a "less loyal" adult who cheated on several girlfriends as a young man and later cheated on his wife when she became pregnant and wanted to stay with the baby; Frank's beloved son Michael. At first he didn't like the pregnancy because they decided not to have children. Reflecting on this part of his experience, Frank says:

Not sure what happened to me or why or when. It seemed like it was a lot easier to have one-night stands than serious relationships. As soon as a girl started to want to get serious or define our relationship, I cheated. Then they'd leave me and I'd tell myself it was for the best, that it wasn't a meaningful relationship anyway. It worked for me until I met my wife and really fell in love with her. I worked to be loyal to her, but I think I freaked out a little bit when she got pregnant. We had decided 'no kids'. But she didn't want to have an abortion and we fought a lot. I had an affair around that time and she found out. I really expected him to leave me then, but he didn't. And then we had Michael and he looked a lot like me; it was strange to look into eyes so similar to mine. And I would kill for him. Yes, I'm loyal, deep down I'm very loyal. To my parents; to my wife; to my son, even to my dog!


In parts of the interview, Abby briefly touched on loyalty but quickly backtracked. For example, she describes how she grew up in a close-knit family where adoption was the norm, but then later describes how she is different from other family members. She respects and admires her mother for choosing to go to nursing school after the children are grown, but later describes her disdain for her mother's choice to remain in an abusive marriage. Abby also decided to leave home at 17, supposedly on a simple trip with a friend, but ultimately, she never returned home except for a visit. When Abby became curious about her birth family, she learned to keep it to herself because she believed her questions hurt her mother. She says:

It seemed to upset my mom if we asked questions about our adoptions, so I didn't really ask any. I think my mom was upset because maybe she was less of a mom because she couldn't have kids. I don't know why he thought that; we were all there in the end and it's all about our parents and never anyone else. So even when I thought about it, I didn't ask because it might have been painful.

As with the other topics in Abby's interview, loyalty was discussed but surrounded by feelings of ambivalence. Loyalty seems to have trumped curiosity so far for Abby, but she still considers looking for her biological parents. However, that would be something to give them peace and not provide Abby with answers. He laughed when the investigator asked if it was a loyalty issue and replied, "Probably yes."


David was curious and asked questions from the moment he found out he was adopted. His parents took him to see a counselor after being told why he had a very strong and negative reaction to the news. He learned to be careful what he asked for and the language he used when asking; it was never his intention to hurt his family, but he thought about his birth parents all the time. He says:

After they told me and things calmed down a bit, I had questions. I mean, it didn't come up a lot growing up, but I was careful how I worded things. You wouldn't want to ask about your real parents, but you could ask about your birth parents and cause less trouble. They knew I had looked, but they didn't know what I found, because I figured my mother would be very upset. He didn't want to do this to her. I think that's loyalty, so yes, I'm a loyal person. But I also like my biological mother and I feel her there too.

From the point in the interview with David where he started talking about his search and discovery of his biological mother, David spoke less about the feelings of his adoptive family and more about his own experience. She has put a lot of energy into helping other adoptees find their biological parents. David later acknowledged that he still feels adamant about not discussing the adoption with his family to avoid hurting their feelings, but noted that he now has "his" family and separates his adoptive family as "his family". “It got a little difficult to keep everything straight.”


Helen talked about loyalty in terms of trying to protect her parents' feelings and having just the right amount of gratitude for being adopted. She combines her experience as an adoptee with her childhood experience of having to move frequently due to her father's job. She says:

You know, you come into this world with a branch, a story about who you are, and then you reinvent yourself every time you move. It was kind of fun when I was little, but it got harder as I got older. Adoption is the same; you can reinvent yourself, but you have your family that remains the same, and loyalty to that is important. When I was 30 I started looking for my biological family and it turned out to be easier than I thought. I didn't talk about it with my family and I had no friends who were adopted, just my brother, and he never, ever wanted to know. He said, "No, no, no, no." He has many problems. I wasn't interested in hurting my family, but I wanted to know.

Helen still considers herself extremely loyal, although this is now directed towards her husband and children. Speaking of being “chosen,” Helen says:

The only one you choose is your partner. I didn't choose it. They didn't want me, so I have someone to thank for taking me in, and thinking that way has led me to fear rejection my whole life. So the fidelity is there. I became loyal and trustworthy to the extreme.

The concept of loyalty was exciting for many of the participants and seems to be almost taken for granted in all the stories. For participants, being loyal often means not asking questions about their adoption or biological heritage; it means fully accepting that you are a member of your adoptive family and that should be enough. Being more or asking for more information is like turning your back on the same family that raised you, and this is something that every participant was aware of. Feelings of guilt and disloyalty were present in all participants and were generalized in four of them. Even adoptive parents who outwardly appreciated their child's questions had some difficulty feeling secure in their position with their child. Loyalty was a very emotional topic for every participant in this study.

Topic 4: Relationship/attachment issues

There are many factors that contribute to relationship problems, and attachment is just one aspect. Attachment is important to an individual's success in forming healthy relationships and is also an important component in identity formation. Secure attachment is the result of the primary caregiver meeting the infant's physical and emotional needs, allowing the infant to learn trust and healthy relationships. Secure attachment early in life provides a solid foundation for identity development, and this is often a problem for adoptees even when they identify having had what they consider a successful placement with their family. Relationships can be difficult for adoptees, and this came up for every one of the study participants; for some, it's a big deal.

Is it over there

She felt more comfortable talking about her personal struggles as an adoptee. She overcame many of the difficulties in her childhood and is a therapist who engages in daily self-reflection. She said:

I always wondered how it could be so different; as I had nothing in common with my family. Then I started to recognize that I didn't seem to fit in anywhere, and as I got older I realized I was just glad I wasn't one of them. But I felt very alone in the world and I was a shy, clumsy, fat boy. I didn't fit in anywhere and stayed out of the house as much as I could while growing up.

As a teenager, Ella started experimenting with sex and says she "went a little crazy". Her parents were divorced at the time and Ella was being shuttled between friends and relatives.

I felt like they were throwing me away, that I was worthless to anyone. I had relationships with abusive people and saw sex as a substitute for the love I desperately craved; I've been alone for a long time and that made me choose very bad people. Very bad. I worked on this relationship stuff in therapy, but mostly I did a lot of the work myself. And I haven't spoken to my mother in eight months; I never felt better. I am in a good relationship now and I have wonderful relationships with my children.

She says she has spent the last 24 years "dissolving" the assumptions she had about herself and relearning how to "be" in the world. For Ella, there has been a main focus on relationships and she continues to work on that now. She strives to learn about herself so she can more effectively help others become authentic and happy people.


For Claire, the relationships she had with her parents and older sister were not difficult. She went a little off the rails when her father told her (at age 12) that she was adopted. As she struggled to come to terms with having her identity completely changed, her relationship with her younger sister became difficult for her. The two girls were very close in age and there was always a competitive edge to their relationship, but the playing field always seemed level for Claire. Finding out that she was adopted changed their relationship and Claire was often hurt by her sister's words, tearfully describing it as her first relationship problem:

This is difficult because everyone was adjusting to the news. My older sister knew all along and remembers my adoption, but my younger sister was just as shocked as I was. She would occasionally use it to hurt me. My parents and older sister were trying to mediate and protect me, and I knew it didn't matter if I was adopted because I was theirs. It was hard to understand why my little sister was sometimes so cruel at a time when it was already very difficult for me. We worked things out and now she's the mother of an adopted daughter, so sometimes she asks me for advice. Still, I think there's some lingering pain for me, and I think there's sometimes lingering guilt for my sister.

Claire says she hasn't had many relationships, but she's had problems sometimes because she has a volatile temper. He never married and chose not to have children. She says:

I can feel some underlying anger and I'm not sure where it's coming from but I've just chalked it up to issues with my sister or the adoption situation. I feel a little unfinished or unresolved. Something is missing; something not complete This seems to be a factor in all my relationships.

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Beth described her relationship with her parents as good and that she worked really hard at school and did really well. She also had a defiant side, being a "rebel" who would break curfew and get drunk at a school dance. In general, she sees herself as dichotomous; very smart and really clueless:

He had a habit of never picking the right people. My first close relationship was with a drug addict. He introduced me to drugs and my freshman year of college was a disaster, followed by mono at the start of my sophomore year which caused me to drop out of school. After that first abusive relationship, I had two marriages to alcoholics; I was the perfect enabler. I had three amazing children who probably kept me alive during that part of my life. When my youngest son left for college, I decided I was tired of being miserable. I left my second husband. Now, I have been together with my best friend for seven years. About two years into our rocky relationship he told me he needed to go to therapy or we wouldn't last.

Beth describes her therapist as helpful in dealing with many issues, although she was not familiar with adoption issues. She connected with online adoption groups and found support there, as well as recognition that other adoptees feel the same way about many things, especially relationships.


Gina had some ambivalence about many of the issues raised during her interview, but it was clear that she had some relationship difficulties. She made friends with girls growing up easily, but that seemed to change when she started dating.

I never had many boyfriends; I think she wasn't as social as many girls. However, there were so many things that went wrong with the bride and groom. Nothing really extreme until I was about 27. I moved in with my boyfriend only to find he had a short fuse. I was sure he must have brought it on and somehow deserved to be mistreated. Things aren't perfect with my husband either, but he doesn't yell when he gets mad. That was refreshing for me because he's kind when he's mad at me. It's not perfect, but I can handle it.

Gina doesn't really know if she and her husband are a good couple, but she thinks they've "convinced" themselves to be good together, and for the most part, that's fine.

Sometimes he talks to me or Grace (his daughter; 10 years old) a little loudly and I wish it were different. He likes things a certain way and I'm much more laid back than he is. But after a really abusive boyfriend, it doesn't seem like much.


Frank has struggled with relationships and recognizes the pattern he had when he started dating. He says he sees clear patterns in the way he treats people, something he is not proud of. He says:

I haven't been in an abusive relationship and I don't think my behaviors could be defined as abusive, but I wasn't always a nice guy. It looked like it would; the girls always took me home to meet their parents and I looked fine on the outside. I really thought I wanted stable girlfriends, but my pattern has always been the same. I could never tell a girl 'I love you'. Even if he did, he couldn't say. Not even my family. I think he hurt my mother. In fact, I married the first girl I said that to! I meant it at the time, but I'm not sure I really understood what it meant until after my son was born. I know I mean it with him.

Frank remembers being afraid as a child that if he misbehaved, he would be sent away. His mother always made a point of telling people that he was adopted, and Frank saw this as an implicit threat:

I think I had nightmares that I would be sent away; that he would come back from school and the family would leave. I used to think about what I would do if that happened. If I could live alone in my house and how would I get food? I don't think other kids have this particular concern if they aren't adopted or in foster care. that's scary

Frank saw a therapist for a short time before his son was born because he knew he had trouble connecting with other people, but it wasn't particularly helpful. He describes the therapist he saw as apparently confused. They didn't talk about adoption, as Frank recalls, but he remembers hearing that she had attachment issues. He is open to the idea of ​​seeing a therapist again, but now understands that adoption would need to be discussed.


Abby considers herself to be quite self-sufficient and independent. It's a little hard for her to wrap her head around the struggles she's had with relationships, but there have been some choices she's not excited about. She says:

I didn't really go out much as a teenager because I was the nerd. When I left home, remember I was only 17; She had a different boyfriend every couple of months. Not a good thing in most cases, but when I got married and it only lasted a few years, I questioned my ability to make a good decision. I know he cheated on me because he never came home and he didn't tell me who he was dating. After that, I decided that marriage involves a lot of commitment. I've been with my current boyfriend for several years and I think we really hit it off. We don't live together; I have so much stuff and I don't want his stuff in my house. Nonewehe wants kids so it works the way it is.

Abby was also affected by her parents' bad marriage. She grew up listening to her father scold her mother and say that she really didn't have a good idea of ​​what a healthy marriage should look like. Overall, he looked at his extended family and knew he didn't want to live the way they looked. She couldn't wait to leave home and rejected every aspect of the Midwestern lifestyle she grew up with.


David admits to having struggled with depression, so he's not sure if some of the struggles he's had in relationships have been affected by depression. He believes that adoption and attachment issues impact his life and has read a lot about attachment. He says:

I knew a lot of kids who were adopted when I was a kid, so I had the advantage of having friends who understood adoption. I think the confusion about where you belong is hard because you really don't know where you are with anything. I mean, I have two family trees on Ancestry.com. How to negotiate relationships successfully?

David is close to his brother, but does not discuss his extensive research into his birth family with anyone in his family. He didn't date much, but he had a marriage that ended in divorce.

I got married in 1991 and we were married for about twelve years. We had a big fight; she really wanted kids and I didn't. So maybe the relationships were rocky; I never really thought about it. I've been with my current relationship for awhile but she's had many husbands and doesn't want to get married and I'm fine with that. It might be a problem later on when we're older. Decision making stuff.


Helen doesn't see herself having problems with relationships in general, but she also takes into account the fact that her family changed frequently and she was forced to "reinvent herself" each time. She saw it as a hard thing to do and a good thing because if something didn't work at one school, she could do it another way. She's been happily married for over 40 years, so that's not a factor in Helen's life. He talks about not having many friends and isolating himself to some extent.

I no longer have a relationship with my brother because it's too weird. We also have no relationship with my husband's family because there was an issue with his mother's will. So basically it's just us. Our daughter is here, but that's all. Just us, and that's fine. I don't know if we'll stay in Reno; Reno is just one stop away. If I don't move, then I move the furniture in my house. And friends, well, eventually I'll have to leave and go somewhere else, then start over with someone else. Is this how relationships are supposed to be? I don't think so, but I really don't know.

Helen says she never discussed adoption with friends and was very anxious when talking to the investigator. She seemed to downplay her feelings at times, and there was a general feeling of sadness when Helen talked about relationships and her reluctance to let people get close to her.

For some of the participants, relationships have been very difficult. The following table (Table 4.2) illustrates some of the shared problems with relationships between participants:

Table 4.2 Types and presence of the participants' relational problems

DivorceAbuseInfidelityConfidencefamily cuts
fill upYYYYY
Is it over thereYYYYY

Table 4.2 shows that each of the participants had relationship difficulties with family, friends or partners. While it is impossible to “blame” adoption for the described relationship issues, each participant acknowledged the belief that adoption plays a major role in every meaningful relationship they have had and that it has hindered almost every relationship.

Theme 5: Being a “people-pleaser”

People pleasers are usually the kindest, most helpful people you know. They rarely say "no" and spend a lot of time doing things for others, often at their own expense. The needs of others almost always come before your own, which is not an emotionally healthy practice. Typically, the need to please others is rooted in a fear of rejection, something each of the eight participants in this study discussed. In attachment theory, fear of rejection can develop from early relationships in which an individual was rejected or abandoned by a significant caregiver. It can also come from emotionally unavailable or inconsistent parents. People-pleasers often have high levels of anxiety that are only alleviated by doing everything possible to make sure everyone is happy and has what they need. The downside is that you never finish what needs to be done until the anxiety subsides; it's an unsustainable dynamic that makes people-pleasers extremely unhappy. The adoptees in this study spoke at length about pleasing people.

Is it over there

Initially, Ella desperately tried to be the girl her mother expected her to be; she wanted her adopted daughters to be replicas of her and behave as she thought they should. She could never settle; she saw herself as "exceptional" in every way. As a teenager, Ella struggled with depression that her parents ignored.

I always focused a lot on the happiness of others, especially my mother's. What other people thought or wanted was always more important to my mother than anything that could happen to me. I could have suffered the worst thing that ever happened to me and then I would still be cleaning my room or something because she was having people over. It was about appearances and not what he thought or needed.

Ella believed that her sister was much more capable of conforming and people pleasing than she was (one of the only things the sisters have in common, according to Ella). As they grew up, Ella recognized how her sister manipulated her parents to please people and she couldn't compete. He lost interest in pleasing his parents early on, but sees that he continued to approach relationships by trying to meet the needs of others while neglecting hers. He is aware that he still feels the need to please people:

I tend to get into relationships right away and maybe get involved too quickly. I want people to like me; I think there's a part of me looking for my tribe and hoping that this is the person. But then I realize what I'm doing and I know I'm really good. That's my resilience. I don't need to be to everyone's liking, but there are moments, maybe every day, when I don't feel good enough, and I love myself and I've thought about it all, but it's still there when I'm with you a person for him first time.


Claire was the middle child in her family and the only adopted child. Ever since she was 12 when she found out she was adopted, everything she believed about herself suddenly felt wrong. Her relationship with her older sister Jane remained pretty much the same after the reveal, but Claire's relationship with her younger sister took a painful turn that still hurts when Claire talks about it. She is the adult daughter who has returned to her hometown to care for her mother, while her sisters periodically come and go and rarely help with her mother's care.

Claire describes herself as always being very sensitive to other people's feelings, especially her mother. This was particularly clear to Claire when she talked about her biological parents.

I always felt ungrateful if she asked questions, and I never wanted to hurt my mother's feelings. It was literally a Pandora's box and I knew it could be for my biological mother as well. I could end up hurting a lot of people just to satisfy my curiosity. It just didn't feel right to put my own needs ahead of other people's needs. I struggle with that even now, although it has always been important to me that my mother is happy and I never wanted to feel responsible if she wasn't. I hold things back because she's super sensitive and I don't want to offend her or hurt her feelings.

Claire spoke less about her adult relationships than the other seven participants. He talked about caring for other people's feelings and some of the pain it has caused him in his life, particularly with his little sister. Claire sees herself as the "good" girl who never wanted to change her family's course. She feels some resentment towards her sisters for being the only one to take care of her elderly mother. Claire loves her mother very much, but she hasn't been able to advance her career because she can't leave the community where she grew up; her mother doesn't want to leave. Claire's sisters were able to explore more of her interests while Claire remains close to her mother.

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Beth thinks that on the outside he always looked confident and secure. She was always a go-getter who seemed to make friends easily. Inside, Beth describes herself as "insecure and needy". She sees her abandonment at birth as critical information and that she has become a "total" person to please.

I was worthless from the start; I mean, my mother threw me out. The only way to find value is through what I can do to please others. That included sex and drugs. Pleasing people through sex, but I couldn't see that at the time and had no idea how much it affected me. I didn't have the ability to choose good people in my life, and I think that went along with not having a sense of self-worth. But if I do what you want, then you have to love me. It just didn't work that way.

Beth describes two marriages, both to alcoholics, in which she knew she wasn't happy but couldn't leave them. She says that she still struggles with putting her own needs before others, but that she has improved and now has a healthy relationship.


Some of the researcher's questions were difficult for Gina because they seemed to deviate from the narrative she tells about her adoption. In answering some of the questions, Gina was answering from her husband's point of view rather than her own. For example, when asked if she sees herself as a person she likes, Gina replied, "My husband would say that a lot about me." However, Gina identified herself as a people-pleaser when asked about being curious and looking up her biological family.

I had a strange guilt that practically stopped me from looking. I had read stories about failed meetings and maybe that's a nice thing for people, but I had a feeling that my quest might ruin someone else's life. I don't want to intervene because I don't need anything from them and I don't want to do anything to upset anyone.

Still, Gina periodically asked questions throughout her life about the practicality of knowing, and it seems she would look to see if there was a reason to do so that would benefit someone else. This came about when she was pregnant with her daughter; if information was needed, then Ginny had a valid reason to find out other than to do it herself.


When asked if he saw himself as a people pleaser, Frank's response was, "Oh, absolutely." He believes most people who know him agree that he tries to be aware of others' feelings:

I've always been told that and in my high school yearbook I was voted "easiest to get along with" in my class. My mother always said that she knew if she asked me to do something, I would do it. That wasn't true with my brother or sister; They were never trusted growing up and they are not trustworthy adults. It drives me crazy, but I also see that I always want to be the right guy. I need to prove to myself, I think, that I'm good enough. Maybe my biological mother dumped me, but I'm good enough. Sounds crazy to say.

Frank is also the go-to person at work, which means his own projects take longer than they should because he's busy helping others. This frustrates him, but he never felt able to change the pattern and now he thinks it's what is expected of him. He suggested that his need to please others may also have fueled his reluctance to fully engage with others.

I think commitment is difficult for me and I have caused my wife difficulties for years. I said that I would never get married and that I never wanted to have children. I wouldn't commit to her even though I knew I really loved her. On the one hand, I was trying to make everyone happy, but on the other hand, I was sabotaging my own life. However, it stuck with me and I think I'm better off with commitment now.


Abby also describes herself as a people pleaser, but also sees herself as fiercely independent. He left home at 17 on what was supposed to be a short trip out west. He graduated high school early and wanted to explore something different from the midwestern town he's lived in all his life.

What happened is I graduated and was going to visit out west, but I never mentioned to my parents that I might not be coming back because they wouldn't let me go. I wasn't 18, so they were tough anyway. She was aware that she didn't want to upset them and didn't want to hurt their feelings because she didn't want to live the midwestern lifestyle. My parents wouldn't understand that, but I couldn't say something to them that would make them feel bad. I think that identifies me as a people pleaser. I can make my own decisions, but I usually keep things to myself if I think I'm going to hurt someone.


Helen described her people-pleasing tendencies as coming from a place of fear; fear of rejection and fear of failure:

I'm a people pleaser. I'll do what you want, when you want, because otherwise you'll reject me. My daughter wrote a poem during her undergraduate years and there was one line in it that always stood out to me; I am that of my father, I am that of my brother, and I am that of my mother's need to please. So I guess I raised my daughter to please people too. The idea of ​​letting someone down has always been something that worries me.

It's hard for Helen to understand whether her people-pleasing stems from being adopted or having to move around so much growing up. She says, "Part of reinventing yourself all the time is being able to anticipate what people think you're supposed to be, and I got pretty good at that after a while."

Each participant described himself as a people pleaser, and each described feelings of anxiety and frustration about a pattern of behavior that seems unhealthy. People-pleasers spend a lot of time doing things for others, and this often gets in the way of their own needs.

Topic 6: Secrets and Lies

Secrecy builds barriers to the formation of a healthy identity. In adoption, there are many forms of secrecy that fuel and are fueled by dysfunction. The need to keep secrets often leads to lies (on the contrary, lies lead to more secrets) and stories that were intended to somehow protect an adoptee from pain, but unfortunately end up causing pain and distrust. Participants had a variety of experiences and feelings related to secrecy and how it impacted their lives.

Is it over there

Although Ella's adoption was not a secret, there were many events in her life that led to Ella not trusting either her adoptive parents or her birth parents. She believes that whichever family raised her, she would be in trouble.

My parents never lied to me and I'm grateful for that. I mean, it was crazy enough being in that family, but I always knew I was adopted. The secret of my situation stems from how my parents managed to adopt a child. There's a mystery to it all, and my parents got involved with a lot of despicable but powerful people. I think I was bought in, and since we were sexually abused from an early age, I sometimes wonder if we were adopted for that purpose. Maybe my mother didn't know, but that may have been my father's motive. My parents were perverts and so were their friends. Much of your world is made up of secrets and lies.

Ella's abusive childhood fueled her desire to connect with her biological parents. He knew his adoption was closed, which meant he would have a hard time finding information. She asked her father for the names of her birth parents and he told her.

So when I turned 18, I asked my dad who my real parents were and he told me their names. Because he said 'John and Mary Hunter' I laughed out loud because I knew he was lying to me; Come on, you can do better than this! Turns out he was telling the truth, but how could he know it was actually a closed adoption? It didn't make sense to me. It was all very suspicious, if this is a closed adoption how could it actually have their names? John and Mary! And it turned out that they were looking for me. I thought it was just going to fill in all these holes, and that's what happened at first. I didn't want to be part of the family that adopted me, but I didn't necessarily want to be part of their family either. There's just a disconnect all around and the truth was hard to discern no matter what. I think they really thought I would make it work for them. When everything fell apart with my biological mother, I ended up having to kick her out of the house. It was terrible!


In general, Claire believed that she had a big family and that she was part of everything. It never occurred to her that she might have been adopted before her father told her at age twelve that she was. She was shocked to discover that her parents and older sister had kept the secret of her adoption from her.

I think the way I found out I was adopted was really weird because my parents couldn't agree on how to tell me; at least that's the story my older sister tells me. I was shocked and really didn't know what to make of the information. It was hard to imagine that this had been kept from me and my sister didn't tell me either. It was a big secret in the family; all three of them knew but my little sister and I didn't and they were so casual about it. It never occurred to me that I really wasn't part of the family.

Claire's pain at discovering that her parents had kept such a tremendous secret from her was intense, and there was no way she could really process the information comfortably:

My dad told me this beautiful story about adoption through the Episcopal Church, telling me how little he knew about my biological parents. It was a complete shock; At first I didn't believe it or thought he was joking. Then it pretty much disappeared and I had no way to process the information. Everything changed and my sense of belonging changed.

Claire's relationship with her father has always been strong, but after discovering that his life was essentially a lie, it has become harder for her to trust that what he told her was true. “I was never sure if the information he gave me about my biological parents was true. I wasn't sure if I'd said or heard right." In meeting and corresponding with her biological mother, Claire was faced with more secrets.

In my biological mother's first reply, she said things like "I've always wondered" and "I've always thought about you". She was very welcoming and warm and told me I could ask her questions. So I sent him some questions about medical issues; practical things, but I also asked questions about her, like she was married. I also asked if she had siblings, but she didn't answer any of those questions. Nothing about her and she told me she wasn't going to tell me about my biological father. It's a terrible feeling to be left in the dark about things and I'm worried there's bad information out there. I don't know if it could be worse than my own imagination.

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Although Beth grew up knowing that she was adopted, she was unaware that she was abandoned on a church steps at birth.

I never questioned the circumstances of my adoption and I think I was relatively satisfied with the information I was given. I never felt like I wasn't part of the family and I was never treated differently. I didn't feel like they were lying or hiding anything from me for any reason other than to protect me. Still, the only information I had was that it had been given to my parents when I was two weeks old. Of course, I had issues related to my adoption, but I'm not sure the secrecy of my abandonment made things worse.

Like Claire, Beth encountered secrets and lies when trying to get in touch with her birth parents. It has been much more difficult for Beth to find information since she was abandoned, but through DNA testing, she was able to find close relatives of her biological mother and discover her mother's identity.

I was hanging around with my biological aunt and cousin. My cousin actually wanted to help because at first we thought we could be sisters. The DNA showed we were cousins, but that meant his aunt was my mother. Also through my cousin I got my sister's contact info and decided 'fuck you' I'm texting her. I told him it felt like we were close relatives. He contacted me right away and decided he was going to help me. He said that he always wanted a sister and that he had three brothers. Our mother was very, very affectionate with the children, but not with my sister. Anyway, after talking to our mother, she told me a complicated story about how our mother had gone to church and was talking to the priest about her situation. She says the priest told her to leave her baby there! This is simply not true; it's not the same story the priest tells.

Beth has not given up hope of having a relationship with her biological mother. He was also able to locate his biological father through DNA and met him. They plan to meet in the near future and he seems delighted to have a daughter. He claims he never knew his mother was pregnant because she got married shortly after they stopped seeing each other.


When asked about the secret, Frank had a different experience. He doesn't think there's much of a secret, and the inaccuracies in his adoption story as told by his parents and the story as told by his biological mother don't seem to be intentional for Frank. Still, secrecy and lying are behaviors Frank has engaged in:

I don't think there are many secrets about my adoption or not. None to come to me now. But here's the thing: I lied a lot as a kid, and I still do sometimes if I feel cornered. It's weird saying this to someone, but that's what I was getting at when you asked me about the lies. and secret; well, i was always careful not to reveal too much about my feelings towards my mother. She always looked so fragile; about to break. I think my dad did that too, and maybe that's when I learned to keep my feelings to myself. I felt like I had to be happy, even though things in my family can be so weird. I mean, nobody else I've ever known grew up with a shrine to a dead baby. I lied to my friends about it so that might be where my lying started. I lied about being part of a very important family that just couldn't be with me; it seemed better to me that my mom just didn't want me.

Frank also believes that the ease with which he can lie has contributed to the problems in his marriage. His mother-in-law was also adopted, so he thinks his wife has been a little more patient with him because she understands adoptees a little bit.

(Video) Critical Subjectivity and the Phenomenology of Contemplative Studies

Sometimes I'm surprised at how patient Jane is with me. I think I'm difficult and I'm glad he understood a little bit about being adopted because he says some of the things he experiences with me are similar to things his mother said and did. She is very patient and understanding and I don't always deserve that. I think secrecy is a terrible thing because sometimes it involves hiding feelings and that's not good. Secrets lead to more secrets and people will get hurt. The same with lies. Lies lead to more and more lies. I know that; I saw and did.

During the interview with Frank, he focused on secrecy and lies, as well as how the media represents him for adoption. He spoke specifically about television dramas that he believes perpetuate the myth of adoptees as mentally ill.

Last night I saw another show on TV that portrayed an adoptee as a murderous psychopath. This usually infuriates me because it makes adoptees look crazy, but really I saw it more as a statement about secrecy and lying to others - the damage that can be done when you lie to someone about who they are. It is possible that eachweDoes he know who we really are somewhere at our core and what lies and secrets rub against this deeper truth? That could create a psychopath, perhaps. (laughs) Maybe we're all a little crazy!


David felt betrayed when he found out at the age of eight that he was adopted. He says, "I didn't take it very well when I found out." He believes his life changed after his mother revealed his adopted status:

Sometimes I felt like the odds were stacked against me. Between me and my brother, and I don't know why they waited so long to tell me the truth. They acted like nothing was really different, but I was different, and I felt like everything in my life was a lie and I didn't know what else to trust. They didn't want to talk about it with me back then, and they still act upset if I bring it up now, so I don't tell them. They didn't want to answer my questions and I don't want to share information about my research right now. I'm forced to keep this a secret because I know how they would react.

David helps other adoptees find information about their biological background by using DNA information to build a family tree that can lead to a name. He finds this rewarding: "It's really fun to help some of them out because, in a way, it denies the secret."

Theme 7: Experiences with Mental Health Professionals

Although not all participants had previous experience with mental health care, it was of interest to the researcher to know the thoughts, feelings and experiences of those who sought help on their own or were asked by their adoptive parents or parents to seek it. help. Other family members. Three of the eight participants did not receive mental health services, but the other five did. It is important to note that the three who did not seek or receive mental health services still believed that it was a good idea for mental health professionals to have training specific to the needs of adoptees.

Is it over there

Despite being asked to go to therapy several times by her mother growing up, Ella is now a mental health professional. She struggled with identity issues throughout her life and was hospitalized at age fifteen after a suicide attempt:

So I never told anyone this whole story! After wandering around, living with my grandparents and one of my mom's boyfriends for a while, they sent me to boarding school. This after her boyfriend's brother tried to abuse me and I wasn't willing to accept it. I attempted suicide and was admitted to a psychiatric institution. The lady I worked with told me to get over it. That he wasn't crazy; they were crazy. I had a few more years and then I needed to get out.

The researcher asked Ella if she thought counseling had ever been helpful to her, she replied:

Not! I was totally forced into various counseling situations, usually with the old white guys sitting behind the desks. None of them did me any good. My mother did not seek counseling; either the school or someone else told her to do it, but she never did. She never believed a word I said about how she felt.

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Beth had many struggles growing up, but she doesn't directly attribute her struggles to being adopted. She was sexually abused twice as a child; by a neighbor when he was six and by a cousin when he was ten. She hasn't told anyone about the abuse, but says her behavior changed and she began to rebel against her parents. He always excelled in school, but he was having a hard time with his relationships and with his family.

I was about six years old and the neighbor next door was about thirteen. Very inappropriate things happened. I've often wondered, now that I'm in therapy, if there was something subliminal about being an adoptee that made me an easy target. At age ten, I was sexually abused again. I was doing well in school, but underneath the surface I was insecure and needy. This extended to my relationships; I have been married twice and both were alcoholics. I just had no sense of self worth.

Beth says her three children have been positive forces in her life. As soon as her youngest son turned eighteen and left home for college, she began to want to get her life in order.

I decided I was tired of being unhappy. I had connected on a friendly level with a guy who had been my best friend in high school. He told me that I deserved to be happy and that it was time to live my life. Now my best friend and I have been together for seven years. I am happier than I ever imagined being. He told me early on that he needed therapy to make our relationship work. I found a great therapist who didn't know anything about adoption, which I know most therapists don't, but he was able to help me through the abuse. I didn't find anyone who worked with adoption.

Beth says she wishes her parents had been told that they should seek counseling for their adopted daughter. "If someone had said, 'Your daughter will need to talk to someone about her experiences,' then she might have had an easier time."


Gina spoke in positive terms about her family and didn't necessarily feel it.

being adopted had some negative impact on her. “I never thought that adoption was anything more than normal; it is not a big deal. It's not a problem." Still, Gina struggled with relationships and sought marriage counseling for a short time when she and her husband were having some difficulties.

Sometimes I worry that Tom is too strong with his words. He's a little nervous and I'm relaxed. With our relationship, we try to convince ourselves that we are a good match and that usually works. Sometimes I wish things were a little different but I love him and I can overlook the way he talks most of the time. Tom always encourages me to see a therapist and I know I probably have things to work out. He saw a therapist once! Once, and it's fixed. No problem with that. But I could probably benefit from therapy.

Gina's family didn't talk much about the problems. There were some difficulties with his brother Mark that seemed to start in high school. Gina and Mark didn't get along, but she looked up to him and says she was often a little jealous of him because he wasn't adopted. Mark was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 40 and refuses treatment. "Karen and I joked that we wanted to be Mark, but now we're glad we're not." As far as Gina knows, no one in her family has received counseling.


Frank didn't receive counseling growing up, but he thinks things would get better.

it would have been easier for him to understand if he had. He experienced his mother's periodic depressions as something that scared him a lot.

She was definitely depressed at times. I remember that sometimes he wouldn't get out of bed and my dad had to make excuses for that. he would sayweshe wasn't feeling well and we would be worried. When I was about 16, I realized that these "episodes" weren't normal like a cold or the flu or something. That he was sad He wanted to work harder to make her happy. I remember feeling so responsible and nobody ever spoke toweabout this. It would have been nice to know it wasn't my fault, you know?

Frank also believes he has had some long-standing issues that may have been helped by counseling. He says that he always had difficulty fulfilling commitments and was very upset when his wife got pregnant.

Oh, I said I would never marry and I never wanted children. I wouldn't commit to Jane even though I knew I really loved her. I think we test ourselves all the time. Her parents divorced when she was 11; Back then, people didn't get divorced like they do now, so she felt awkward and judged by her friends. I felt awkward and judged for being adopted. I always felt out of things. So counseling certainly would have helped me many times during my life. I tried therapy once, but it didn't help. I've thought about it from time to time, but I really don't know how much it would help right now. I'm pretty well established in my ways and it seems to work.

Frank says that when he saw the therapist, he wrote on the therapy admission form that he had been adopted, but he never showed up for sessions. Frank says the therapist he saw "always seemed confused." His wife encouraged him to mention adoption as an issue, but it didn't seem important.


David was very surprised to learn that he was adopted at the age of eight. She built a strong narrative about her beginnings that started in the hospital where she was born and ended in the place where her family lived when her mother told her the truth. He remembers being very upset by the revelation and then depressed.

I remember feeling miserable and wondering how my parents could love me if I wasn't really theirs. My mother tried to comfort me, but I ended up seeing a counselor at that point. The counselor was nice enough, but I don't think she knew much about adoption. It was a long time ago, but I know he gave me a book on adoption.

David believes he dealt with his feelings by allowing himself to discover information about his biological parents. He doesn't talk about what he found with his parents because he knows they see him as a threat. He doesn't say anything about adoption with his family, but he has a few friends who are also adoptees and can talk to them. He wishes therapists could work with adoptees because he believes the need is greater now than ever.

I think the difficult thing is for adopted children to feel like orphans, even though they aren't; many of them do. I don't want to generalize too much, but the number of children growing up in orphanages and the like is very high. They will have problems because they were taken by force or traumatized. Who will help them?

Table 4.3 (below) reflects a summary of the themes that emerged from the participants' narratives.

Table 4.3 Summary and Participation in Participants' Topics

Feelings of "Otherness"Loyaltyidentity issuesrelational problemsProblems with secrecy and liesBehaviors that please peopleHistory of Therapy
fill upEEEEEEE
Is it over thereEEEEEEE

Table 4.3 describes how the seven themes are largely intertwined throughout the

interviews with participants. The researcher did not direct the course of the interviews, on the contrary; these themes emerged independently during each conversation. While there were some additional themes that came up again and again, the seven themes illustrated in Table 4.3 were profound because they evoked emotions in each person when discussed.


This chapter outlined themes that emerged from a phenomenological analysis of interviews with eight adoptees. Themes were identified and discussed based on the experiences, thoughts and feelings of the participants. The seven questions were largely universal across individuals, detailing some of the sensitive issues that adoptees experience. While all participants agreed that adoption is an overwhelmingly positive and necessary institution, there are pitfalls that need to be addressed to help adoptees live emotionally healthier lives. The experiences lived by the adoptees were detailed using examples of textures and structural composite descriptions to highlight the specific needs described by the participants.


What a simple thing it seems to me that, in order to know ourselves as we are, we must know the names of our mothers. –Alice Walker

This study identified the thoughts, feelings and experiences of eight adoptees who shared their personal adoption stories and how adoption impacted their identity and relationship formation. Past research on adoption has been varied, but much of the focus has been on adoptee and biological family reunification, adoption-related attachment issues in older children, and adoption-related family issues (Borders, Penny, & Portnoy, 2000; Brodzinsky, 1987 , 1992, 2013). Some research has been done on identity formation in adoption (Brodzinsky & Palacios, 2005; Dunbar & Grotevant, 2004), but little has been written about the specific needs of adoptees in terms of appropriate mental health care (Brodzinsky, 2013; Feeney, Passamore , & Peterson, 2007; Henderson, 2007), using the services of qualified and competent professionals to recognize the support needs of adoptees. This study analyzed the experiences of adoptees to synthesize a core understanding of attachment and identity formation through a qualitative phenomenological analysis. Unlike previous studies that may have determined that attachment and identity formation are potentially difficult for adoptees, this study examined eight different perspectives to demonstrate the ways in which adoption impacted each participant's life in terms of attachment formation. , attachment and identity.

Contextualization of Discoveries

Previous research (Borders et al., 2000; Palacios & Brodzinsky, 2010; Porch, 2007; Smith, 2010) has largely focused on addressing potential issues faced by birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees, and research points to the need for more research and understanding of the needs of members of the adoptive triad, including understanding specific therapeutic needs and the availability of a competent mental health community that is trained (or at least minimally familiarized) to work with the complexities of adoption. There has been a subtle shift away from research that compares adjustment difficulties in adoptees versus non-adoptes towards research that focuses more on the reasons for the most common problems among adoptees (Brodzinsky, 2013; Palacios & Brodzinsky, 2010). Because research suggests that adoptees are at greater risk for behavioral, psychological, and academic problems, as well as a greater risk for substance abuse, it is important to note that most adoptees are well-adjusted (Borders, Penny, and Portnoy, 2000; Porch, 2007 ; Sass & Henderson, 2000). Rather than studies comparing non-adoptes with adoptees, it appears that more research on specific adoption issues would provide more useful information about the needs of members of the adoption triad.

There is little doubt among researchers that adoptees have a greater degree of difficulty with attachment and identity formation (Barth & Miller, 2000; Brodzinsky, Schechter, & Henig, 1992; Pittman, Kiley, Kerpelman, & Vaughn, 2011). there is still very little movement to help these people and their families understand where the problems come from. Previous studies examining attachment and identity formation in adoption have concluded that there is a correlation between the two, but that more research is needed (Moyer & Juang, 2011; Muller, Gibbs & Ariely, 2002; Passmore, Fogarty, Bourke & Baker -Evans, 2005). This study used the eight participants' detailed thoughts, feelings, and experiences to determine more specific information that could help guide mental health professionals in working with members of the adoption triad. Because previous research shows that, regardless of the reason, adopted adults seek counseling in greater numbers than non-adoptes (Atkinson, Gonet, Freundlich, & Riley, 2013; Borders et al., 2000; Passmore, Feeney, Peterson, & Shimmaki , 2006 ), it is important for the mental health community to know how to work effectively with this population. Researchers have identified that post-adoption counseling is badly needed, but that there are not enough trained professionals to provide services (Avery, 2004; Casey, 2003; Sass & Henderson, 2013). Each of the participants in this study indicated that skilled adoption-sensitive mental health professionals would be beneficial to members of the adoption triad, consistent with previous research results.

Among the participants in this study, even individuals who considered their adoption a positive experience in general, there was recognition of some difficulty with identity and an underlying feeling of being different. This is similar to findings from previous studies with adoptees (Atkinson, Gonet, Freundlich, & Riley, 2013; Barth & Miller, 2000; Sass & Henderson, 2013), despite the assumption that only maladjusted adoptees are attached and/or have problems of identity .

Each participant told a unique story detailing their experience as an adoptee and gave the researcher insight into how adoption affected identity and whether there are attachment issues in adoptees who were adopted at or close to birth. As traditional attachment models describe attachment as starting after birth (Ainsworth & Bowlby, 1991; Bowlby, 1969, 1979, 1980, 1988; Mackey, 2013), it was important for the researcher to see if any of the participants had relational problems. which can be attributed to insecure attachment. According to previous studies (McGinn, 2007; Moyer & Juang, 2011), there is a direct link between attachment and identity; Insecure attachment has been shown to interfere with autonomy (Dunbar & Grotevant, 2004), which is a necessary element in identity formation. Arabin (1996) carried out a study that analyzed the gestational experience of 25 pairs of twins using ultrasound. The twins were very interactive with each other; hugs and kisses, and the study included confirmation by parents after birth, indicating a close and loving relationship between the twins (Chamberlin, 2013). There are also studies that prove that newborns recognize the voices of their parents immediately after birth, so it is not an exaggeration to believe that a newborn understands the absence of the only constant in his life since conception: the mother.

The previous chapter described seven common themes experienced by the eight participants; They are: loyalty, feelings of "otherness", identity problems, relationship problems, problems with secrecy and lying, people-pleasing behaviors and experience with therapy. These themes are consistent with themes that were observed in some form in previous studies. For example, in a study by Henderson, Sass, and Carlson (2006), difficulties with loss and grief were observed in both adoptees and biological mothers. Respondents in the study experienced difficulties with identity formation, often starting in earnest during adolescence. Respondents also detailed how they believed society disapproved of their wanting to know about their biological parents because they should be "grateful" for giving them a home. Study results indicate that respondents would like access to a therapist who is knowledgeable about adoption issues. This finding attests to the need for mental health professionals to receive at least some formal training in dealing with adoption issues so that this segment of the population can be adequately served.

Social meaning and relevance

This study provides essential information to improve current knowledge about the importance of attachment and identity formation in adoption. As attachment and identity are two key elements in emotional and relational development, it is essential for mental health professionals to understand and recognize that adoptees often struggle even though they were raised in healthy and loving foster homes. The ability to look beyond the standard admission information collected at the beginning of the therapeutic relationship and include the basic step of asking about adoption is simple but not a typical question on therapy admission forms.

The relevance of this study for school counselors and teachers is enormous, as many issues of identity formation and attachment can develop in the school environment. Children with attachment or separation issues may become combative or aggressive (Fishman & Harrington, 2007). Implementing competency standards for mental health professionals would likely go a long way in promoting the competency of school counselors who could better deal with problems that arise with adoptees. In many cases, school counselors may not actually know which students are adopted, which can severely limit their ability to provide appropriate services. It is also difficult to form meaningful relationships with others, further isolating an adopted individual. In a school setting, this can be devastating for a child who wants to fit in. Children who lack biological information may be confused about tasks that require knowledge about heredity. Treating adopted children as if they were no different from non-adopted children is confusing for them. Participants in this study describe feeling different, and with this difference there can be confusion and discomfort in discussing feelings with adoptive parents due to fear (whether real or imaginary) of hurting them.

The advent of the Internet and social media as a major presence in our lives has virtually brought a wealth of information into our homes at the click of a mouse. Additionally, DNA test kits are widely available and can provide information that provides access to an adoptee's biological history and the availability of original records relating to the biological family. The concept of secrecy in adoption and the need to keep birth records sealed is no longer the controversial issue it once was. This shift further supports the need for mental health professionals to be competent in working with adoption issues and understanding the complexities of each member of the adoption triad.

While this study focuses on the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of domestic adoptees, it is important to note that there is a difference in the needs of internationally adoptees. Some studies have shown that international adoptees are at increased risk for psychiatric disorders, but the studies fail to disentangle relocation stressors or other factors related to the individual's pre-adoption experience. In addition, participants in this study were adopted at or near birth. There is evidence that age of adoption is associated with a greater likelihood of difficulty (Juffer & van Ijzendoorn, 2005). Since there is no way to separate other risk factors from the problems an adoptee may have, it is difficult to know if there are risk factors unrelated to adoption problems that could create difficulties with attachment or identity formation.

Implications for future research

The experiences shared by participants certainly illuminate a clear need to understand the complexities of adoption in mental health professionals. Indeed, the literature shows that more effective pre-adoption preparation is highly effective in helping both the adoptee and the adoptive family (Brodzinsky, 2011; Sass & Henderson, 2000; Smith, 2010). Such preparation would include full disclosure of background information (where available) along with early intervention of issues that may have arisen (Brodzinsky, 1987, 1993, 2007, 2011; Wegar, 2000). These findings support the concept that competency standards for mental health professionals are imperative for providing services to a population that is overrepresented in mental health treatment centers, jails and prisons, substance abuse treatment centers, and shelters. for homeless people.

As with many things, the impact of the Internet has changed the availability of information for adoptees and biological parents interested in seeking information. The wide availability of DNA testing has also changed the playing field for people seeking information about their biology. As secrecy becomes less viable for adoptees, particularly those whose adoptions have ended, the need for mental health support services will increase. Research should focus on determining what specific needs members of the adoption triad believe it would be most helpful for a therapist to receive training. Additionally, it would be important for adoptees to understand the value of a therapist (or other mental health professional) on the importance of knowing that a client is adopted, or even whether the adoption experience is considered relevant to the effectiveness of the adoption. adoption, treatment or in determining the mode of treatment.

In this study, as in previous studies, Erikson's (1950, 1968, 1980, 1998) research on identity formation was instrumental in understanding both the importance of identity for adoptees and the obstacles they face. Additional theoretical work would be beneficial to clarify the best practices for mental health professionals to help adoptees make sense of the "assigned" identity that accompanies adoption and the development of a meaningful identity with all the necessary information that is used. Additional research would also benefit from identity development for other “assigned” identities such as gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation (Grotevant, Dunbar, Kohler, & Esau, 2007).

The researcher of this study believes that a more extensive exploration of attachment and whether it can be more precisely determined when attachment begins would be helpful in understanding the loss felt by many adoptees despite having close and loving relationships with their adoptive parents. Information gained from a deeper understanding of when attachment begins would also help therapists determine the direction of therapy. More importantly, this information can help adoptees validate unexplained feelings. Even if adoption is not considered a focal point for therapy, it can be a related component and is worth exploring. It is estimated that only sixteen percent of family therapists focus on adoption-related issues (Brodzinsky, 2013) and that other studies in areas related to health and education show similar trends.

There would be great value in future studies that measure the value of competent practitioners in adoption and outcomes for their clients. The literature has pointed to a lot of dissatisfaction among members of the adoption triad regarding the quality of mental health care received and the knowledge of professionals about adoption issues. Competency standards would eliminate much of the dissatisfaction by providing professionals who are attuned to adoption issues and know how to intervene most effectively. This, in turn, could lead to more people seeking services and a reduction in the number of people being taken into mental health treatment centers, substance abuse treatment centers, jails, prisons and homeless shelters.

Ultimately, it makes sense that the survey tracks current adoption trends and what is important to members of the adoption triad. Social media and television have made many post-adoption topics relatively popular, including search and rematch or DNA testing. Despite this trend, mental health professionals are not keeping up with and apparently not addressing adoption issues. It may be valuable to investigate why this discrepancy exists and to help change this trend.

This study provided guidance for future studies on issues related to attachment, identity formation, and adoption. The results further inform the current body of knowledge about how mental health professionals can work more effectively with adoption issues, and the implications provide the framework for future research on this topic.

Implications for mental health professionals

The adoption literature clearly demonstrates the need for competition in mental health care. Adoptees and their families are more likely than the general population to seek mental health services (Avery, 2004; Barth & Miller, 2000; Borders et al., 2000; Brodzinsky, 1987, 1992, 2007, 2011; Casey, 2003; Dennis, 2014; Grotevant, 2003; Henderson, 2007). There are numerous reasons for this, and mental health professionals must have knowledge and training on adoption issues to understand and help members of the adoption triad. While all graduate programs are likely to include attachment and identity issues in their curriculum, they do not include the struggles and loss felt by many adoptees who do not understand that adoption can be at the heart of these feelings.

Currently, there are several programs in the United States that are developing or operating certification programs in adoption competition. This is a start, but limited access to these programs means there is still a glaring gap in available services. In addition to access, these programs are expensive for the mental health professional and would be cheaper and more accessible if competency standards were incorporated into existing graduate programs. There is also the continuing education market that could be a source of training, and all clinical supervisors should have some formal training or certification in adoption competency. There is currently only one program that requires a supervisory component; participants attend a course and must complete a six-month supervision (Brodzinsky, 2013). There is no research at this time to support the effectiveness of current curricula or programs.

There are many other ways to facilitate competition in mental health settings, including peer support groups and regional professional organizations that are easily accessible to the community. Working to educate professionals will also have an impact on diagnostics, and professional certification can help insurers and managed care companies understand the needs of the adoption triad.


The perception that adoptees are predisposed to mental disorders, substance abuse, criminal behavior, or homelessness is not accurate. The fact that adoptees are over-represented in these environments shows that as a society, we haven't done a good enough job of understanding the importance of biology for adoptees who struggle with identity. The mental health community as a whole has made no effort to understand that attachment likely begins before birth and that even wonderful placements for an adoptee do not remove the underlying feelings of loss or sadness that adoptees often describe. Adoptive parents are not adequately equipped with enough information about the potential struggles they may have with attachment and identity issues. Adoptive parents receive counseling if they adopt through an agency, but if they have problems with their baby, they may be afraid to admit to a social worker or agency worker that they need help. Once your child gets older, they are no longer eligible for agency help in most cases.

Moving forward, it is important that the mental health community, universities, and federal/state agencies make the necessary changes to adequately serve the segment of our communities that are involved in the adoption triad. Careful scrutiny of all aspects of the adoption competition should be addressed on a regular basis to ensure effective interventions in mental health, education and general health issues related to adoption.

There have been many changes to what adoption looks like; particularly as mental health professionals have come to recognize the importance of healthy attachment and identity formation. Yet adoption as an area of ​​research remains under-researched. There is a growing movement among mental health professionals to research and educate themselves to better serve this population. The competition from adoption therapy is starting to be taken seriously by the mental health care community, and as adoption secrecy becomes more of a thing of the past, mental health professionals are beginning to shift from a psychopathological view. from adoption to one that normalizes experiences and perhaps can focus on resilience in each member of the adoption triad. Adoption has likely always been part of the fabric of civilization, and those whose lives are affected by adoption should have access to informed mental health care and understand that their feelings are valid.

There is no way to predict which adoptee will have attachment or identity issues; these are just two of the many possible questions addressed in this study. There is also no way to determine how loss to adoption can result in a feeling of having “found” oneself. It is important to recognize that the journey is a healthy one and that “lost” and “found” can coexist. Adoption can benefit everyone involved; Access to competent mental health care is the way to ensure the best possible outcome for all members of the adoption triad.


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(Video) 2017 Personality 10: Humanism & Phenomenology: Carl Rogers


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