The Adoption Paradox

The Atlantic recently published an article titled “The Adoption Paradox” that cited a study claiming adoptive children have more behavior and attention problems at school than their non-adopted peers, despite having “better” parents. Adoptive parents were considered better because, according to the article, they tend to be “wealthier than other parents,” “better educated,” and “put more effort into raising their kids.”

Talk about the assumption that adoptive parents are not only better than their children’s birth parents, but also better parents than others who are raising their own biological children. Do you feel this is a generally accepted assumption? How does this societal view of adoptive parents affect your relationship with your own parents? Does it affect how you view yourself? Do you feel your adoptive parents did a better job than your birth parents would have in raising you? Do you feel your adoptive parents did a better job than other parents you know who raised their biological children? Do adoptive parents generally have an advantage over other parents, and if so, are adopted children better off because of this advantage?

I think the answer to these questions is always “It depends.” You can’t make assumptions, because every situation is different.

I can only speak from experience, but I know a lot of adoptive parents, and they are A) all different, and B) no “better” than the parents I see raising their biological children.

And perhaps this is just my bias, but I believe it takes a certain kind of mindset to adopt a child. It’s never stated outright, but it’s a kind of feeling of “I deserve this.”  “I deserve to have a child even though I’m unable to. So I’m going to use someone else’s.”  I honestly think that’s a horrible way to raise an adopted child, with even a hint of this going on inside a parents head, consciously or not.  Children, especially hypervigilant adopted children (i.e. all of them), pick up on the subtlest of cues from their parents.  They know, and it’s not healthy.

How does this societal view of adoptive parents affect your relationship with your own parents? Does it affect how you view yourself?

I think as a child it had a big effect. My parents thought it (I’m sure…it leaked out all over the place esp. from my father).  It was made clear by them and others that “They did so much for me” and “I should be grateful for that.”   My parents looked good from the outside, it was the emotional climate of the house that was so damaging.  But no one would have believed that, because they were the “saviors” who rescued the poor adoptee who no one wanted.   *gag*  They didn’t say that outright, but society sure did, and they hinted at it and didn’t deny it.

Was this true?  Well, of course, who knows??  I know my mothers side of my birth family, and I know my mother is a hard working, kind, awesome person, with a large and loving extended family.  But would she have been a good mom?  I don’t really know.

My adoptive parents, however, I do know. My mother and her brother were sent to live with an aunt and uncle when they were young because my grandmother left her husband who refused to work. When she was being raised by her mother, it was a relatively “cold” and utilitarian relationship.  My uncle never really recovered from this. My mom has issues, including bitterness, hardness and an inability to empathize. She *tries*, and has had such a hard life, but it wasn’t a good fit for a needy adoptee.

My father, well, you’ve heard me talk about him – he was raised by an alcoholic and a seemingly narcissistic mother (who got that way because of her own neglectful upbringing).  He has issues.  Depression, anxiety, alcohol abuse, anger…if I had to diagnose I’d say borderline personality disorder. He would tell me one thing and then ignore me for three days because he was furious that I actually did the thing he said I could do.  But he, too, tries!  They both tried, and are learning and trying, to be good parents.

But these people, and many like them, look “good” for interviews and home studies…look good on paper.  Do they parent an adoptee well? Hell no.  Yet they looked, to outsiders like the man writing the above mentioned article, to be “perfect parents.”  They had some money (don’t get me started on that! a story for another day), a good job, a stay at home mom, a biological son. My mother was hard working and my father was very engaging, a real people person. They wanted a daughter to make their picture perfect family.

Do I honestly think I would have been better off with my biological family. Yes.  My parents took a child primed for mental health issues by being relinquished, and threw gasoline on the fire, all while denying there was a fire, and telling me I’m fine.  I’m surprised I’m still here, and not any more cray cray than I already am.

I think adoptees in general *need* better parenting than most, due to the special circumstances of how they are being raised. Do I think they get that? In specific cases, yes — in general, no.  You’re always going to find those “awesome parents” among the average parents, but I don’t think they are any more likely to be raising adoptees than the average family.


It's lovely to have you here. Please keep comments respectful of the adoptees who read here. "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

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