People have wondered for a long time whether children who were adopted
in infancy are at increased risk for psychological problems. Now, the
first study of its kind has found that most are psychologically
healthy, though they’re at "slightly increased risk" for behavioral
problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or
oppositional defiant disorder.
Listen to the broadcast on NPR Morning Edition. For another look at the study, check out the Chicago Tribune story. I thought it was very interesting that the children in this study adopted internationally had less of a risk than domestic infant adoptees. From the article:
The researchers had thought that adoptees born overseas would be at
higher risk of psychiatric disorders than those who were born and
placed in the U.S., but they found the reverse was true.
"Our hypothesis was that international adoptees might have faced ethnic
discrimination as they entered the school years and might have
experienced a longer period of exposure to pre-adoption adversity in
their country of origin, which would lead to a higher risk for
psychiatric distress," said Keyes, a research psychologist at the
Minnesota Center for Twin and Family Research.
The assessments did find higher levels of separation anxiety among
international adoptees. Teachers also rated this group as significantly
more anxious in general than their non-adopted peers.
Debbie Riley, executive director of the Center for Adoption Support and
Education in suburban Washington, noted that teens who are adopted face
added pressure at a vulnerable time of life.
"Adoption is a significant event in an adolescent’s life which cannot
be ignored," Riley said. "If ever there’s a time when an adoptee is
likely to enter therapy, it’s during adolescence. . . . This is the
time when you form your identity—when you’re faced with, ‘Who am I?’
"These kids have this extra layer, and the issues are very complex."
Experts said other factors might include genetics, prenatal
malnutrition, drug and alcohol exposure, and the post-natal
environment, such as conditions in orphanages. Brodzinsky also pointed
to the significance of being cut off from one’s background and the
anxiety the experience can provoke, even when it occurs at an early age.
"When we experience losses, we grieve . . . but too often, adoptees are
told: ‘You should be grateful.’ They don’t get to grieve . . . and
blocked grief can result in pathology, such as depression," said
Brodzinsky, research director of the Donaldson Institute in New York
Keyes stressed that her study should not alarm adoptive parents. About
1.5 million children and teens younger than 18 in the U.S. are adopted.