Thesis: Transracial adoptees family situation affects many aspects of the adopted child’s life, do these children have identity formation difficulties during adolescence and are there any significant differences between adoptees and birth children?
B. Age of child at time of placement
B. Age of child at time of placement
Being introduced into a new family is only one of many obstacles that lies ahead for those who enter into transracial adoption. With all of the information that is out there would adoptive parents advise others to pursue a transracial adoption? (Simon, 3).Do children who are adopted lose their social and racial identity, their racial attitudes, and their sense of awareness about racial issues? Transracial adoption have supporters and non-supporters with feelings that parent-child relationships work best between biological “likes”, and fears that adoptive parents are not able to love and nurture biological “unlikes” (Simon, 1). There has been a great deal of research conducted about adoptees and the problems they face with identity formation. Many researchers agree on some of the causes of identity formation problems in adolescent adoptees, but others have concluded that there is not a significant difference in identity formation in adoptees and birth children. The following paper will bring out some of the research findings, which have been conducted, and will then attempt to answer the following questions: Do adoptees have identity formation difficulties during adolescence, and if they do, what are the causes? Has it been shown that there is a significant difference between identity formation of adoptees and birth children? In order to find the answers to these questions, looking at the attachment, development and identity will need to be looked at altogether.
Of adopted children tested, the National Adoption Center has reported that fifty-two percent of adoptable children have attachment disorder symptoms. There is uniqueness in being in an transracial-adopted person. Most obvious is that the children grow up in a family in which they do not look like their parents or other members of their family.
Their history is a part of them throughout their life because it is so visibly apparent. The adoptive family may ignore or make little effort to incorporate into the family the cultural heritage of the adopted child (Adamec,136). This decision to leave the culture behind, outside the family, does not suggest that the child is neither accepted nor loved or cherished as their own. However, when the adoptive family also adopts and embraces the cultural identity of the child’s birth culture, it enriches not only the adopted child but also the entire family and extended family as well. Another factor is attachment is the child’s age when they were adopted. The older the child when adopted, the risk of social maladjustment was found to be higher (Simon, 188). Most children when adopted at younger ages have a better chance to adjustment normally, than children adopted over the age of ten. An infant learns to trust quicker, than a ten-year old child does, but all of this depends on each case. Developmental theorist Eric Erikson, discusses trust issues in his theory of development. Erikson’s first stage of development is “Trust versus Mistrust”, which states “if needs are dependably met, infants develop a sense of basic trust” (Myers, 149). For an adopted child, placing the child early in a key ingredient to successful attachment of child to parent and vice versa (Cox, 1). Such an attachment, which is strong among the majority of families throughout the paper, is an important precursor to positive identity and psychological health, both of which are commonplace among the adolescents. Attachment can occur between adoptive parents and their older child, and it “usually is assumed that the bonding process will take time and the older the child, the longer the process will take” (Adamec, 60). This usually takes place in the first
stage of Erikson’s developmental stages, but with older children, this can still take place, but will vary in the time it takes to attach between parent and child.
Although Erikson has eight stages of development, the one, which forms a child’s identity, is in the “Identity versus role confusion” stages (Myers, 149). In this stage, which is the child’s teen years into their twenties, “teenagers work at refining a sense of self by testing roles and integrating them to form a single identity, or they become confused about their identity” ( Myers, 149). Adopted children do not have a biological example to follow, unless they keep a relationship with their biological family, and this can hinder the identity issue for adolescents. This is where the attachment to their adoptive parents is so important, so the child does not have any trust issues and they bond with their adoptive parents more quickly. With all of the issues surrounding transracial adoption, adoptive parents have to understand, is that no everyone is suited for transracial adoptions.
Families have to care a great deal about the heritage of the child they are adopting. Adoptees should never have to choose between their ethnic heritage and the culture of their new family, whether the child is an infant at the time of adoption or an older child. This becomes very important to the “child the older they become” (Cox, 1). The adopted child will have questions that will arise, and “identity formation can be changed” or stopped during this period in the child’s life, if they cannot find the answers to their questions (Simon, 169).As with many children, the adopted child may tend to adopt the identity of their parents. All adolescents go through a stage of struggling with their
identity, wondering “how they fit in with their family, peers, and the rest of the world (Horner, 83). During the stage of adolescence, young people seek their own identity,
through linking their current self-perceptions with their self-perceptions from earlier periods and with their cultural and biological heritage (Baran, 23).Children who are adopted, have difficulty with this because they do not have all the information they need, in most cases, to develop a sense of whom they are. Identity formation can often be impaired by the lack of knowledge the adopted child has of their past and heritage. Often an adopted child grieves, not only for the loss of their birth parents, but also for the loss of part of themselves. The adopted child is likely to have an “increased interest in his or her birth parents”, which does not mean that they are rejecting their adoptive parents (Simon, 169). Psychological studies have found that transracially adopted children appear to handle the identity issues, all adopted children face, better than most because, researchers theorize, they cannot pretend to be like everyone else (Adopting Resources, 1). They deal with adoption issues before the turbulent teenage years. For an adolescent, finding an identity, while considering both sets of parents is a difficult task. The adoptee does not want to hurt or offend his adoptive parents, and he also does not want to ignore what is known about his biological roots. In most of the studies, the researchers are in agreement about one fact; vital to the adopted adolescent’s identity development is the knowledge of the birth family and the circumstances surrounding the adoption. Without this information, the adolescent has difficulty deciding which family, birth or adopted, he resembles.
During the search for an identity in adolescence, the child may face an array of problems including hostility toward the adoptive parents, rejection of anger toward the birth parents, self-hatred, transracial adoption concerns, feeling of rootlessness (McRoy,
498). Adoptees satisfy their curiosity in various ways and to various extents. They have to find “the balance of both their heritage and culture of their new family”(Cox, 1).
Instead of the usual struggles over separation and the establishment of a cohesive sense of self and identity, the adopted child must struggle with the competing and conflicting issues of good and bad parents, good and bad self, and separation from both adoptive parents and images of biological parents. If all adoptions were open, the adoptee would have the ability to know about the traits of each family. He would have an easier task of forming an identity for himself, rather than struggling with the issues of whom he can relate. If the adolescent has some information about his birth parents, such as ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and religion, the following can happen: From the bits of fact that they possess, adopted children develop and elaborate explanations of their adoptions. At the same time, they begin to explain themselves, and they struggle to develop a cohesive and realistic sense of who they are and who they can become” (Horner, 81).It has been shown that if the adoptee has even a small amount of information on his or her birth parents and adoption, identity formation will be easier, than an adoptee that has no information about the circumstances of the adoption. The adoptive parents can also play a key role in aiding in identity formation of the adopted adolescent. The negativity of adoptive parents about the circumstances of the adoption,
can be sensed by the adoptee, thus causing the adoptee to believe that there is something wrong with being adopted, this can cause identity formation problems ( Adamec, 136).
While many researches have concluded that identity formation is inherently more difficult for adoptees, some “recent comparisons of adopted and non-adopted youth have
found no differences in adequacy of identity formation, and revealed higher identity scores for adoptees” (Simon, 117).Factors such as the subjects’ age, sex, personality variables, family characteristics, and motivation to search for birth parents accounted more for quality of identity formation than did adoptive status (Simon, 27-28). Transracial adoptees seem to obtain their identity as well as birth children of families.
Wondering about oneself and one’s identity, trying to determine who one is and will become, is a natural part of the transition from child to teenager to adult. “Adolescence is a difficult time for all children, adopted or not (Cox, 1). Add in the complication of not resembling your parents, other members of the family, and having only memories of their cultural familiarity, makes it that much harder to find out “who you are” and “where you belong” (Cox, 1).The research does show that the more an adoptee knows about their birth family, the circumstances surrounding their adoption, the easier it will be for him to form an identity during adolescence. It allows the adoptee to construct a view of what their birth family is like, and it also allows a chance to relieve some of the internal pain, which is caused by closed adoptions. Most of the research supported the notion that adoptees can have identity formation problems, but also with support can find ways to build their own identity. This is why it is so important for the children to properly attach
to their adoptive parents and get extra help through their development stages.There have been no significant differences between adoptees and birth children, unless the adopted child was older and already had problems before entering the adoptive familiy. People should not shy away from adopting transracial children, but go into the adoption with all the facts and with their eyes wide open.
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