Adoption And Identity Formation

.. y, the adopted child must struggle with the competing and conflictual 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 to whom he can relate. If the adolescent has some information about his birth parents, such as ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and religion, Horner and Rosenberg (1991) believe that 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. It appears that if the adoptee has even a minimal amount of information about his birth parents and adoption, he will have an easier time with identity formation than an adoptee who has no information about his adoption. The adoptive parents can also play a key role in aiding in identity formation of the adopted adolescent. Much of the research I surveyed at least touched upon the role of the adoptive parents. Kornitzer stated that the more mysterious the adoptive parents make things for the child the more he will resort to fantasy (Baran et al., 1975).

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This is yet another argument for open adoptions. Again, if the child knows the circumstances of his adoption and other pertinent information about his biological roots, he will have an easier time forming an identity in adolescence. It is also noted that, . . .

young adoptees are vulnerable to feeling different or bad due to the comments and actions of others (Wegar, 1995). This is to say that the child will feel more accepted, and that his adoption is not a stigma if his adoptive parents have the conviction that being adopted does not make the family bad, and it does not mean that the adoptive parents are failures because they could not have biological children. Sometimes 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. Once again, this can cause identity formation problems, especially if the adolescent believes that he is inferior or bad because he is adopted and not raised in his biological family. The literature on adopted children has long documented particular and sometimes intense struggles around identity formation, and suggests that in many ways adopted children follow a different developmental course from children who are raised by their biological parents (Horner and Rosenberg, 1991).

While most of the studies I read found that adoptees have difficulty in identity formation during adolescence, I did find an article which refutes this point. Kelly et al. (1998) write: Developing a separate, autonomous, mature sense of self is widely recognized as a particularly complex task for adoptees. While many scholars have concluded that identity formation is inherently more difficult for adoptees some recent comparisons of adopted and nonadopted youth have found no differences in adequacy of identity formation, and a study by Stein and Hoopes (1985) revealed higher ego identity scores for adoptees. Goebel and Lott (1986) found that such factors as 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.

In conclusion, it is difficult to say who is right in their beliefs about adoptees and identity formation. The research I have reviewed has mostly shown that adoptees do have quite a bit a difficulty forming an identity during adolescence, and that this difficulty can be due to a number of factors. Negative parental attitudes about adoption can have a negative affect on the adoptee. The issue of open versus closed adoptions will forever be a debate, but the research does show that the more an adoptee knows about his birth family and the circumstances surrounding his adoption, the easier it will be for him to form an identity during adolescence. Most of the researchers who wrote about the family romance seemed to do so in a negative manner, when in fact I believe that the ability to fantasize about the birth family may be a healthy option for the adolescent who is the victim of a closed adoption. It allows him to construct a view of what his birth family is like, and it also allows him to relieve himself of some of the internal pain which is caused by closed adoptions.

Overall, most of the literature supported the notion that adoptees do indeed have identity formation problems. Bibliography Baran, A., Pannor, R., & Sorosky, A. (1975). Identity Conflicts in Adoptees. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 45(1), 18-26. Benson, P., McGue, M., & Sharma, A. (1998).

The Psychological Adjustment of United States Adopted Adolescents and Their Nonadopted Siblings. Child Development, 69(3), 791-802. Benson, P., McGue, M., & Sharma, A. (1996). The Effect of Common Rearing on Adolescent Adjustment: Evidence from a U.S.

Adoption Cohort. Developmental Psychology, 32(4), 604-613. Brinch, P. & Brinch, E. (1982). Adoption and Adaptation.

Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 170, 489-493. Cote, A., Joseph, K., Kotsopoulos, S., Oke, L., Pentland, N., Sheahan, P., & Stavrakaki, C. (1988). Psychiatric Disorders in Adopted Children: A Controlled Study. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 58(4), 608-611. Hajal, F., & Rosenberg, E.

(1991). The Family Life Cycle in Adoptive Families. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 61(1), 78-85. Horner, T., & Rosenberg, E. (1991).

Birthparent Romances and Identity Formation in Adopted Children. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 61(1), 70-77. Kelly, M., Martin, B., Rigby, A., & Towner-Thyrum, E. (1998). Adjustment and Identity Formation in Adopted and Nonadopted Young Adults: Contributions of a Family Enviornment. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 68(3), 497-500. McRoy, R., Grotevant, H., Furuta, A., & Lopez, S.

(1990). Adoption Revelation and Communication Issues: Implications for Practice. Families in Society, 71, 550-557. Wegar, K. (1995). Adoption and Mental Health: A Theoretical Critique of the Psychopathological Model.

American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 65(4), 540-548.