Known Consequences of Adoption to the Child
What They Knew
But Ignored for over 50 Years.
The Psychology of the Adopted Child
1943 - 1943 - 1943
National Committee for Mental Health
Journal on Mental Hygiene. New York,
by Florence Clothier M.D.,1943
The child who does not grow up with his own biological parents,
or does not even know them or anyone of his own blood, is an individual who has lost the thread of family continuity. A deep
identification with our forebears, as experienced originally in the mother-child relationship, gives us our most fundamental
security. The child's repeated discoveries that the mother from whom he has been biologically separated will continue to warm
him, nourish him, and protect him pours into the very structure of his personality a stability and a reassurance that he is
safe, even in this new alien world.
Every adopted child, at some time in his development, has
been deprived of this primitive relationship with his mother. This trauma and the severing of the individual from his racial
antecedents lie at the core of what is peculiar to the psychology of the adopted child. The adopted child presents all the
complications in social and emotional developments seen in the own child. But the ego of the adopted child, in addition to
all the normal demands made upon it, is called upon to compensate for wound left by the loss of the biological mother. Later
on this appears as an unknown void, separating the adopted child from his fellows whose blood ties bind them to the past as
well as to the future.
It is pertinent never to lose sight of the fact that no matter
how lost to him his natural parents may be, the adopted child carries stamped in every cell of his body genes derived from
his forebears. The primitive stuff of which he is made and which he will pass on to future generations was determined finally
at the time of his conception. . . The implications of this for the psychology of the adopted child are of the utmost significance.
The child who is placed with adoptive parents at or soon after
birth misses the mutual and deeply satisfying mother-child relationship, the roots of which lie in that deep area of the personality
where the physiological and psychological are merged. Both for the child and for the natural mother, that period is part of
a biological sequence, and it is to be doubted whether the relationship to it's post-partum mother, in it's subtler effects,
can be replaced by even the best of substitute mothers.
But those subtle effects lie so deeply buried in the personality
that, in light of our present knowledge, we cannot evaluate them. We do know more about the trauma that an older baby suffers
when he is separated from his mother, with whom his relationship is no longer merely parasitic, but toward whom he has developed
active social strivings. For some children, and in some stages of development, this severing of the budding social relationship
can cause irreparable harm. The child's willingness to sacrifice instinctive gratifications and infantile pleasures for the
sake of love relationships has proved a bitter disillusionment, and he may be loath to give himself into a love relationship
The Adoption of Newborns
Is it professional neglect or child
Clothier continued: `We also have reason to believe
that if an adoptive placement is made in earliest infancy with parents who accept and love the child, there is a maximum probability
that the child's emotional and social development will parallel that of the own child, even though the adopted child has to
forego infancy's first and greatest protection from tension. The child who is placed in infancy has the opportunity of passing
through his Oedipal development in relationship to his adoptive parents without an interruption that, in the child's phantasy,
may amount to the most severe of punishments.'
Having acknowledged their inability to evaluate
the trauma in severing the biological connection between a mother and child at birth, in 1943, `in light of their present
knowledge', failed to inspire any research into the trauma, and so the subsequent emotional wellbeing and future development
of millions of adopted infants world-wide, has relied entirely upon wishful thinking.
Mental health experts around the world then spent the next
fifty years conducting major research, and thousands of psychiatric case studies into the social dysfunction of the adopted
child, trying to find explanations for the emotional complications causing adopted children to be over-represented in mental
health facilities and clinics around the world.
They blamed `bad blood', genetic pre-dispositions in the deviant
mother, bad pre-natal care, difficult births, hereditary factors, neurotic adopters, that adoptive parents were more inclined
to send the child to psychiatric facilities, bad parenting, separation from foster parents, genealogical bewilderment, attention
deficit disorders, personality disorders, schizophrenia, etc. Etc. And although much research has been conducted into the
harmful effects of separating an animal from it's mother at birth, never once has the trauma caused by the interference of
the biological sequence of birth between a human mother and child even been considered let alone researched.
However, according to Florence Clothier - the trauma suffered
by an infant separated from his mother at birth has always been known.
It is the degree of that trauma which remains unknown because
it has suited the fabric of society to avoid and ignore it.