Monday, January 08, 2007

The Psychology of Adoptive Parents

Are adoptive parents, especially those from the Closed Era, more likely to be self-centered or suffer from some degree of narcissism? (Not you Third Mom. You're way too empathetic. And if you're an adoptive parent who truly tries to understand what your child is experiencing, then not you, either)

It's a fair question.

MUCH has been written about the psychology of us adoptees. Our identity issues, our lifelong search for self, the adaptations we must make to cope with being separated from our mothers, followed by being raised by a family of genetic strangers.

If WE, generally speaking, share certain commonalities, then so must adoptive parents.

It seems to me, from reading adoptee blogs and forum postings, that while some lucked out with wonderful, loving adoptive parents, a fair number of us also got saddled with self-absorbed ninnies who forced us into a life of enslavement to their relentless needs, making us responsible for their emotional and/or physical well-being. It seems many of us adoptees ended up "parentified." Which seems an unfair burden on someone already loaded down with the heavy baggage of being given away by one's own mother.

The self-absorbed lack empathy and are the least able to help a child cope with adoption's challenges. Their interests must be served first and continuously.

Adoption is often praised as a brilliant solution to a societal problem. Children with mothers unwilling or unable to raise them are transferred to people who are infertile or, for other reasons, want to add to their existing families.

Which sounds like a great plan until you start paying attention to what many adult adoptees have to say about their adoptive parents: that the myriad issues created by infertility and resulting desperation to raise a child that led them to adopt in the first place, created its own narcissistic wound big enough for us adoptees to get trapped in.



Blogger elizabeth said...

I was told I was adopted because their real daughter needed a playmate, and he was infertile after one child.

She had narc. tendancies for sure, but doesn't hold a candle, doesn't even begin to come close to my NPD mother. Shudder.

Sounds like your natural mother has narc. tendancies too. We both sure got a raw deal.

4:14 PM  
Blogger suz said...

Good questions and I personally think to some degree, yes. But I also think that advances in adoption psychology, etc. have made more current era adoptive parents slightly more open.

The agency that sold my daughter required NO, zip, zero, pre adoption counseling. If they family had money, they got a baby. End of story. No counseling on attachment, primal wound, search, reunion, genetic mirroring, etc. It was a business transaction, plain and simple.

And I wonder why my daughter has problems discussing my presence in her life with her parents? These people bought into the lie, hook line and sinker that she was theirs, I did not exist, never would, she would never think about me, blah blah blah.

What a rude awakening they have gotten (and will continue to get).

7:25 PM  
Anonymous daughterof2women said...

I think a lot of adoptive parents were told by professionals that it was best to pretend that the adoption didn't happen. My parents bought into the philosophy. When I found out that my birthmother was dead they were much more concerned about how it affected them then about how it affected me. I wish they would have asked me how it was affecting me. If I was okay. And I had "good" parents. They really do love me but it was all about them. I was going through the hardest thing and it was all about them. Interesting post.

8:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or is it perhaps that only those adoptees who were adopted by narcisstic or otherwise troubled parents have a need to blog, post on forums etc?

I am not an adoptee but I have become very interested in the phenomenon over the last few years as a number of people very close to me ARE adotees. My guess is that troubled parents often leads to troubled kids. And parents who are reasonably comfortable with themselves and their lives lead to well-adjusted children. Adopted or otherwise. And I think most well-adjusted people don't feel a need to blog about their parents etc.....

Just my 2 cents.....

And I've said it before, but Nina your courage, bravery and insight are tryly inspirational.

11:32 PM  
Blogger LeRoy Dissing said...

anonymous makes a point. Are adoptees who blog a representative sample of all adoptees or only those adoptees who were adopted by maladjusted adoptive parents? Hard to say unless there are empirical research surveys/studies show that what people are describing on their blogs is in fact what the majority of adoptees can expect.

I do, however, tend to believe that there are a disporpostionate number of issues adoptees face when compared to children who were raised by their own parents. And those can and do lead to considerable adjustment concerns for adoptees.

I do think adoption agencies are better today at screening prospective adoptive parents than in the past. More services are available to adoptive parents today than ever. Nevertheless, in the field I work in I see many "special needs" children placed with parents who themselves have "special needs". Talk about a setup for failure! And many of these special needs adoptions involve a hefty adoption subsidy usually in the neighborhood of one to two thousand tax-free dollars per month plus medical assistance for the child until they turn 18 or graduate from high school. So how is a kid to feel when the State can go out and "rent a parent" for you until 18?

I am not saying that there are not very good, well-intentioned foster/adoptive parents out there. What I am saying is that there are a lot of dysfunctional ones too. We should, as a rule, hold the standard very high when placing children. We owe it to the children to do the very best we can to perserve them in their own families first and if that doesn't work, then work harder for reunification. Adoption and foster parenting, in my opinion, should be viewed as everyone's failure. There is a good reason why we in the buisness call it "substitue care". It can never replace a person's real family, nor should it.

The State and private agencies who place children make poor parents. Every child I have ever placed wanted to go home and the vast majority of them did. Some had to wait until they were 18, but, like a homing pigeon, (and I realize some will say that is part of the abuse/neglect syndrome, but I don't buy all that) they all went home for awhile. No matter what environment they were placed in; no matter how good the foster/adoptive parents were to them; home was always considered to be with their own parents & siblings. To me that makes every child and their parents "special".

And that makes you very special Nina for speaking out.

4:05 AM  
Blogger joy said...

Or is it perhaps that only those adoptees who were adopted by narcisstic or otherwise troubled parents have a need to blog, post on forums etc?

I am not an adoptee but I have become very interested in the phenomenon over the last few years as a number of people very close to me ARE adotees. My guess is that troubled parents often leads to troubled kids. And parents who are reasonably comfortable with themselves and their lives lead to well-adjusted children. Adopted or otherwise. And I think most well-adjusted people don't feel a need to blog about their parents etc.....

Just my 2 cents.....

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

I can see why you only place a value of 2 cents on them.

I think pathologizing people who blog or post on forums, etc. is naive. Many of us who do blog are expressive/creative types by nature that has more to do with our desire to write than our being troubled, indeed many of our troubled counter parts are too busy out starting fires etc., to blog.

Would these people who are close to you and adopted be your children?

I wonder, I find it improbable that just a friend of an adoptee have so much energy to expend on adoptee blogs, unless they were very disturbed and obssessive.

Wishing you Peace.

9:05 AM  
Anonymous Addie Pray said...

You bring up a good point, Nina.

Maybe this phenomena should be explored further.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Nina said...

Mmmm. You're onto something, Joy...regarding Anonymous' comment. That's my reaction, too. Very odd indeed. Methinks someone protests a bit too much in an obscure location that took much energy to seek out.

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Actually, I don't have any adopted children. My partner of 11 years is adopted and is contemplating trying to trace his birth family. In my extended family, I also have an aunt, my dad's older sister, who was adopted and traced us, her birth family, a few years ago.

As a concerned, caring girlfriend, I've researched the topic so that I can TRY to understand what he is going through. That's why I read blogs in not particularly obscure locations (google: i.e. adoption+reunion or something similar).

I have to say I'm surprised in the responses to what I thought was a fair and reasonable comment. I'm sorry to hear that only adoptees comments are welcome here. I won't be visiting your blog again Nina, which I have to say saddens me as I am very interested and moved by what you have to say.


2:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great topic for discussion, Nina. Exploration into the emotional, psychological and mental state of adoptive parents is needed.

A-parents are marketed as the most wonderful, loving creatures on the planet - why, because they're infertile and are desperate for a baby? This makes a person a "good" parent? Are they not human like the rest of us and bring with them to the adoption their own past and set of issues? Relationship problems? Infertility issues?

Had most adopters been able to conceive children, they would have never adopted. What's so interesting is that a peron's need to adopt is about as strong as an adopted person's neeed to search for their family. One act of desperation creates another.

I don't believe that an adopted person, whether raised in an adoptive home where the a-parents were more together, or an adopted person who grew up in total dysfuntion, has a greater or lesser need to know who they are. It's more about the loyalty one feels for being given a "good family".

And what's so sad is that an adoptee should never be presented with the question. Every human being has the right to know their parents and heritage - no one should have to "search" for their parents and identity.

Adoptees are expected to fill the a-parents' void. Even when a-parents say they will help the adoptee search, if and when they are ready to, it's too late - the damage has been done. Does an adopter ever say, "I adopted you even though your mother wanted you desperately, and only needed some support to keep you - we dismissed her needs at that time just so we could have a child in our home?"

One adopter who got a baby from China said that whenever her adopted child is ready to search she will help her find her mother. (And it's not like the adoptee is jumping up and down for joy at the prospect of their adopters helping them search - it can take years for an adopted person to get the courage to start searching.) What if that mother arrived on their doorstep and asked for her child back? Would the a-mother return her to her mother? We know in certain rural parts of China, baby girls are not considered a good long-term investment - this doesn't mean the mothers don't love and want to keep their means they don't have a choice to keep them. So, if somehow a mother was able to find her baby after an adoption, and the adoptive parent has clearly stated that she adopted because a baby was lving in an orphanaage and needed a family....would she give the child back to her mother?

No, I doubt it. The adopters have their own agenda - it's to build a family through adoption - and adoptees aren't stupid, they are just gagged right from the get-go.

Adoptees watch their a-parents facial expressions, they feel their a-parents insecurities and fears. They know, albeit not able to clearly articulate it, what their adopters feel, but they know they are in that home to make sure the a-parents are happy - adoptees (most) are not brave enough to risk being rejected by the people who "rescued" them by saying, "I want to find my family."

How many adoptees over the last one hundred years were abused (in many forms) in their adoptive home, how many adopters put the adopted child into foster care, how many have been murdered, how many adopters divorced?

Adoption has always been about the best interest of the adoptive parents and the profits made by adoption industry.

6:04 AM  
Blogger AMYADOPTEE said...

Its interesting that the anonymous comment mentions adoptees. What about the adoptive parents that blog? What about the first parents that blog? What about the foster kids who blog? What about the foster parents that blog? What about the sperm/egg donation gang who blog? What about all the international adoptees that blog? What about the social workers that blog? My honest opinion to anonymous ~ you might want to read all of us. More than likely you won't get a real straight answer on your partners feelings. We adoptees tend to hide our true feelings even from our loved ones. Us bloggers will give it to you gut honest.

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