PSYCHOLOGY OF THE ADOPTED CHILD.
Clothier. F. MD. 1943.
Clothier says in her paper in Mental Hygiene (1943). "Every adopted child at some point 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 development in the own child. But the
ego of the adopted child, in addition to all the demands made upon it, is called upon to compensate for the wound left by
the loss of the biological mother".
The child who is placed with adoptive parents at or soon after birth misses the mutual and deeply satisfying mother
and child relationship. The roots of which lie deep in the area of personality where the psychological and physiological are
merged. Both for the child and the natural mother, that period is part of the biological sequence, and it is to be doubted
whether the relationship of the child to it's post partum mother, in its 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 the light of our present knowledge, we
cannot evaluate them.
Clothier says: "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 parasitic, but toward whom he has developed active social strivings".
For some children, and in some stages of development, the severing of a budding social relationship can cause irreparable
harm. The childs willingness to sacrifice instinctive gratifications and infantile pleasures for the sake of a love relationship
has proved a bitter disillusionment, and he may be reluctant to give himself into a love relationship again.
The child who is placed in infancy has the opportunity of passing through his oedipal development in relation to
his adoptive parents without an interruption, that in the childs phantasy, may amount to the most severe of punishments.
Because of the love the baby has come to need to receive from his mother and to give to his mother, he accepts
his first responsibility in life, namely toilet training. He gives up infantile sources of pleasure for the sake of his mother,
who's love he wants to hold and whom he wants to please.
The child who lacks the motivation of a growing social and emotional relationship with a highly valued love object,
does not accept training in a spirit of co-operation. If he accepts it at all, it is likely to be in response to fear of the
consequences of wetting and soiling. Many children use persistent wetting and soiling as a method of expressing their antagonism
to a mother with whom they have not experienced an early, satisfying love relationship.
Brisley. (1939) points out that the illegitimate baby (and this applies to the prospective candidate for adoption)
is under abnormal pressure to "be good". This implies first being quiet and taking feeds well, and later, accepting toilet
training at an early age. This emphasis Brisley suggests is a "contributing factor to the insecurity and feeling of aloneness
which seems characteristic of the illegitimate child."
Clothier goes on to say, "that every child, whether living with his parents or with foster parents, has a recourse
to phantasy when he finds himself frustrated, threatened or incapable of dominating his environment. For the adopted child
it is not a phantasy that these parents with whom he lives with are not his parents, it is reality.
For the adopted child, the second set of parents are obviously the unknown lost real parents. His normal ambivalence
will make use of this reality situation to focus his love impulses on one set of parents and his hate impulses on another.
He finds an easy escape from the frustrations inherent in his home education by assuming the attitude that these, his adoptive
parents, are his bad and wicked persecutors, whereas his dimly remembered own or foster parents, from whom he was 'stolen'
are represented in his phantasy as the good parents to whom he owes his love and allegiance".
FANTASIES AND BEHAVIOUR OF THE ADOPTED CHILD;
Marshall D.Schechter. M.D., Beverly Hills California.
In his paper on the Observations of Adopted Children.
In a series of cases seen by him the percentage of adopted children was 13.3 as compared with the national average
of 0.134. This indicates a hundredfold increase of patients in this category compared with what could be expected in the general
Toussieng (April 1958) of the out patients and admissions service said that one third of all patients coming to
the Menninger out patient clinic were adopted.
Schechter, goes on to say. The striking thing in most cases was that the feature of their adoptive status played
a significant role in the underlying dynamics of the problem.
He observed in many of his case studies on adopted children symptoms relating to such things as fantasies and "acting
out" regarding the real parents, i.e. their appearance, their names and killing and murder especially toward their real mother.
Observations also included outbursts toward the adoptive parents telling them they would not do as the parents
say because they were not their real parents. He also goes on to say that adopted children suffer symptoms of depression,
feelings of incompleteness, phobic fear of abandonment, anxiety, aloofness and distancing of them selves which made close
Schechter also noted hyperactivity and unmanageability in children of a young age. He also observed, particularly
with one child, that it had relationships of the same quality with strangers as his parents, namely, superficial and dominated
by a driving need to have his impulses satisfied immediately. The child could easily be comforted by a stranger as easily
as by his mother.
In the behaviour of young adopted girls Schechter observed instances of such things as sex-play, exhibitionism,
seductiveness and regression.
He also noted in cases of adopted boys, problems of lying, stealing, and lack of integration with others.
Schechter's observations of the adoptive parents were that often the adoptive mothers had intense feelings of inadequacy
regarding their womanly functions that contributed to an over protectiveness to the children. These feelings also served as
a constant reminder of her barrenness, stimulating her need to tell the story of "the chosen one".
Prior to adoption, some of these people had recognized emotional problems within themselves. Some had thought of
the children as potential saviours of their marriage. Some felt that a child was essential to prove their masculinity.
Toussieng. (1958) commenting on the repetition of the story of adoption and of how "we picked you" suggests that
the real parents did not want him and therefore were bad parents. Therefore, though the parents stress the wanting aspect
they at the same time play the "abandonment theme".
The belief of "I'm no good: because my parents gave me away because I was no good and I am going to prove them
right" is not uncommon in adoptive children.
In his comments Schechter reports we could see how the idea of adoption had woven itself into the framework of
the childs personality configuration. It played a role in symptom formation and object relationships. It certainly had an
effect in later development, giving the stamp of antisocial behaviour and that of a paranoidal system.
He summarises by stating " The patients in this paper do not have a fantasy about being adopted, they were adopted.
Their daydream, which cannot be combated by denial, is the connection with their real parents. Who were they? What were they?
Why did they give me up? Do I have any living relatives? What was my name, etc?
Clothier. (April;1943) states. A deep identification with our fore-bears as experienced originally in the mother-child
relationship, gives us our most fundamental security. . . Every adopted child at some point in his development has been deprived
of his primitive relationship with his mother. This trauma and the removal of the individual from his racial antecedent lie
at the core of what is peculiar to the psychology of the adopted child.
Toussieng (1958) states; the adolescence of the adopted child seems to be a particularly difficult one because
it is harder for adoptive adolescents to accept their rebellion against the adoptive parents, to give them up as love objects.
Furthermore, I have now seen a number of cases in which children in adolescence start roaming around almost aimlessly, though
some times they are seeking someone or some thing. They seem to be seeking the fantasised "good real parents".
Benedek (1938) presents an important concept regarding the development of confidence based on mother-child relationship.
This is the area so sensitive in these adopted children and which can be found to under-lie so many of their disturbances.
DISABILITIES IN ADOPTED CHILDREN AND ADOPTIVE PARENTS
Dr. Povl W. Toussieng. M.D.
Dr Toussieng was a child psychiatrist at The Menninger Clinic Topeka, Kansas.
Dr Toussieng suggests that adopted children seem more prone to emotional disturbances than non-adopted children;
he concludes that their conflicts are caused by their adoptive parents unresolved resistance to parenthood.
He says that in spite of careful screening of adopted children and their prospective parents prior to adoption,
a disproportionately large percentage of these children eventually come to psychiatric or other professional attention because
of emotional, educational or social problems.
The fact that sixty one percent of the first and only child in an adopting family were particularly prone to disturbances
suggested that they should look elsewhere than in the children themselves for the factors contributing to later disturbances.
The children presented at the Childrens Service tended to present many severe difficulties.
Toussieng also acknowledges that severe emotional disturbances and personality disorders are over-represented among
adopted children and that they may have severe emotional difficulties that may never come to the attention of professionals.
He points out that on reaching adulthood some children become obsessed with finding their real mother because they
had revealed a feeling of never having been really attached to their adoptive family and never had the feeling of real belonging.
Toussieng refers to Deutsh (1945) where she discusses the influences of unconscious attitudes and conflicts on
the abilities of the adoptive mother to be motherly toward their adopted children. She believes that an adoptive mothers failure
to develop motherliness is the major cause of later disturbances in the child. They (the mothers) view the adopted child as
narcissistic injury, as evidence that they themselves are damaged. The child in trying to identify with such parents may well
acquire shaky and defective introjects.
Toussieng summarises by stating "children who have been adopted at an early age and/or who have not been exposed
to psychological traumatization before adoption seem to be more prone to emotional disturbances than non-adopted children.
ADOPTED CHILDREN DISABILITIES.
Michael Humphrey and Christopher Ounsted.
Michael Humphrey, M.A. B.Sc Principal Clinical Psychologist. Warneford and Park Hospitals.
Christopher Ounsted. D.M.,D.C.H., D.P.M., Consultant-in Charge Park Hospital for Children.
In a control group of 41 early age adoptees they distinguished the following symptoms. Emotional reactions (tantrums,
negativism, jealousy). Enuresis, anxiety, disturbed social behaviour, aggression, withdrawl, stealing, cruelty, destructiveness,
lying and encopresis.
They were impressed with finding out that one in two children adopted late had been stealing as compared to one
in four children adopted at an early age. The action appeared in several cases to be expressly directed at the adoptive mother,
either from a sense of rejection (in some cases well founded) or as an appeal for more individual attention. Sometimes the
money would be spent on presents for friends in the hope of gaining popularity. Some of these children have stolen compulsively
over a long period with no sign of remorse.
They found the adopted children suffered from varying degrees of parental deprivation, neglect, parental rejection
or at the opposite extreme, over-indulgence, mental or physical illness sufficient to impair the quality of parental love,
and jealously of a sibling born before or too soon after the adoption.
FANTASY OF ADOPTED CHILDREN AND ADOPTIVE PARENTS.
Schechter.M. Carlson.P.V. Simmons. J.Q. and Work. H.H.
In a paper submitted to the Childrens Bureau, US Department of Health Aug 1963.
The factor of adoption played a consistently important role in the genesis and perpetuation of the given symptom
picture. Two major hypotheses were suggested for the higher incidence of psychological disturbances in the adoptee. Firstly
the adoptee may intra-physically continue a split between good and bad in his infantile object relations, since in reality
he has two sets of parents. Secondly, the adoptive parent is often confused in his or her role due to unconscious guilts and
hostilities and tends to project this disturbance backward into the heredity of the child i.e. the natural parents.
Phipps(1953) mentioned the tendency of parents to speak about the heredity of the child as the major causative
factor in behavioural difficulties.
Lemon E.M. (1959) referred to the difficulty that the adopted individual has in dealing with communication concerning
his adopted status with a resulting tendency to weave factual material together with much fantasied material in his thoughts
as he seeks his natural parents.
They went on to say that these patients perceived their adoptive parents as inadequate especially with the setting
of limits and viewed their natural parents as their adequate set of parents.
Livermore J. B (1961) suggests that the adoptees have specific problems in identification, since the adoptive mother
constantly reactivates primitive unconscious fears that her own insides have been destroyed.
They summarised by saying. "We feel that we have offered substantial evidence from many sources that the non-relative
adopted child may be more prone to emotional difficulties".
A statement from the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 1967.37 402. Mid-Fairfield Child Guidance Centre Norwalk
The number of adopted adolescent children who are referred to our centre and other centres is larger than their
ratio in the general population. "We are impressed with the extent to which these children are pre-occupied with the theme
of their adoption".
They go on to talk about the similarity of the traits and attitudes in these children which they refer to as the
DISABILITIES OF ADOPTED CHILDREN.
Dr Christopher Ounsted, MA, DM, MRCP, DCH, DPM.
Dr Ounsted states that in the late fifties it had become apparent to him and his colleagues at the Park Street
Hospital for Children that they were seeing an unexpectedly large number of adopted children. Many of the children owed their
disabilities either to some inate handicap or to defects in the structure of their families, such as having parents who were
psychotic, inadequate, psychopathic, defective, or in some other way not able to fulfil their parental roles adequately.
Ounsted noted that of the symptoms of adopted patients, compulsive theft was more significant.
Henry Kemp. Archives of Diseases in Childhood (1971) states that some children may be more vulnerable to abuse
than others. Among them are the hyperactive, the precocious, the premature, the stepchild and the adopted.
1974 Dr Triseliotis in his research paper on Identity and Adoption, gives examples of adoptees views on identity.
One of the main anxieties of adoptees is the fear of being different and somewhat
set apart from the rest.
- 1st adoptee,
- "I look in the mirror and cannot recognise myself".
- 2nd adoptee,
- "I feel there is something about adoption that gives you a feeling of insecurity as regards just exactly who you
- 3rd adoptee,
- "I feel that I am only a half a person, the other half obscured by my adoption".
- 4th adoptee,
- "I never really felt I belonged. I feel empty and I find it difficult to make friends or be close to people. I
have been hovering on the edge of a break down".
The adopted child has to gradually accept the loss of his natural parents and the "rejection" this implies. Yet
he has to also accomodate a preferably positive image of the original set of parents and their genealogy in his developing
Children who are adopted into a different culture will still need to identify with aspects of their original heritage.
Bennett Olshaker, MD. In his paper "What shall We Tell the Kids", he notes that the adopted person has to contend
with the feeling that he was abandoned, but we can try to help him in a positive manner by portraying his natural parents
in a positive manner. He goes on to say that some adoptive parents may feel that their childs' parents were immoral for having
a child out of wedlock. These sentiments create difficulties for the parents when the child has questions regarding sexual
ADOPTED CHILDREN ADMITTED INTO RESIDENTIAL PSYCHIATRIC CARE.
Harper.J.; Williams. S. 1976.
This was an investigation over a period of five years from 1969-1974 into 22 adopted children admitted into the
childrens unit at North Ryde Psychiatric Centre. Six were referred at age eleven and over, three were referred before their
fifth birthday and the remaining thirteen fell between five and ten years and eleven months.
Symptoms in the children ranged from depression, aggressive acting out behaviour to stealing. In some instances
stealing was a desperate attempt to buy friendship since the stolen money was to buy sweets and toys for peers. In other instances
it seemed to compensate for the loss of the real mother by acquisition of material goods. In all cases it could be seen as
a cry for help.
In some instances admission to the unit signals the relinquishing of parental responsibility as evidenced by eight
cases where the child was made a ward of the state and placed in a child welfare home. A summary of the various outcomes indicated
that they on the whole were unsatisfactory with one third settling back into their adoptive families with a positive prognosis
and two thirds demonstrating a breakdown or possible breakdown in the adoptions.
Family trauma and parental pathology was investigated since it was felt that the stress of adoption could not alone
account for the severity of symptoms and outcomes in the children. In terms of family trauma one mother and one father suicided
after a history of depressive illness, one set of adoptive parents were murdered, two fathers were killed in car accidents
with the adoptive child present and three fathers were unusually violent and aggressive men.
In seven cases, the mothers had a history of psychiatric illness prior to the adoption, including one with a schizophrenic
illness. In the case of the seven mothers and three fathers for whom a psychiatric diagnosis was made after the adoption,
one can only speculate on the degree to which extra-familial stresses and internal pressures contributed toward this decompensation.
Rickarby. G.A. Eagan. P. 1980.
Rickarby and Eagan say that in their and others studies, there has been consistent evidence of morbidity of various
types in adopted adolescents. He states that adoptive families are four times more as likely as biological to seek help for
their distress. Acting out, degrees of depression, identity crisis and special roles, (the bad one, the mad one, or the sick
one) may constitute an adolescent's expression of a families dysfunction.
With the added issues of adoption, adolescent development crises become more difficult and the concomitant distress
and behaviour exaggerated. These situations include the adolescent who is unable to communicate to others his frightening
or idealized fantasies about his biological parents and who cannot readily accept the identity expected of him in his adoptive
family and the adopted adolescent who is struggling to cope in a family beset by marital conflict or mental illness.
Cultural fables may have a destructive aspect on the adopted adolescents development. One such fable is "the chosen
child". This is often a source of great anger to the child whose experience of his family has not been "good enough". His
anger is directed at the adoptive parents because these people "chose him".
Another fable is that of "the poor child whose parents did not want him" and who was adopted by the bountiful parents
to whom the child should be ever more grateful.
ADOPTIVE ANXIETY, RAGE AND GUILT.
Silverman. M.A. 1985. Discusses in his paper that when adoptive status is foisted upon a child, the child is encumbered
with so many problems that he or she is at risk of developing a host of psychological problems. This is particularly so if
the child learns of his adoption at an early age.
These can be unhappiness, separation problems, difficulty knowing and learning, aggressive fantasies and acts,
preoccupation with knives and other weapons, and his feelings of being deprived and robbed.
Adoptive status tends to affect multiple aspects of the developing personality. It interferes with the childs sense
of security, the modulation of and channelling of the childs aggression, the development and resolution of the Oedipus complex,
super-ego formation, and identity formation.
To lose a parent early in life, especially when there is a felt element of cruel rejection and desertion, as there
tends to be when a child is told of adoption while still in the throes of "sadistic-anal" ambivalence and the hostile-dependent
struggles of the reproachment crisis of separation-individuation, mobilizes in tense fear and rage. The rage at the abandoning
parents is in part directed toward the adoptive parents.
In part the rage is turned back on the self, contributing to the fantasy that the child was abandoned by the original
parents because he or she was bad, troublesome, greedy, and destructive.
Silverman goes on to say "nearly every adopted child or adult I have treated sooner or later has revealed the fantasy
that the reason for the adoption was the biological mother died in childbirth, which tends to be depicted as a tearing, ripping,
bloody, murderous affair in which the baby gains life by taking the life of the mother".
The adopted child not only needs to learn about pregnancy and childbirth to solve the mysteries of his or her origins,
but also needs to find out if he or she is really a murderer! Adopted children often entertain the fantasy that the original
father too has died.
BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER IN ADOPTEES.
Wilson. : Green. : Soth. : 1986. Report that many adopted adolescent patients in their hospital (10 out of 21)
have received a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. This diagnosis, made official in the American Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (3rd edition 1980), includes the following symptoms: impulsivity or unpredictability
in areas that are potentially self damaging, a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships with idealization,
devaluation and manipulation, inappropriate intense anger.
Identity disturbance was manifested by uncertainty about several issues relating to identity, intolerence of being
alone, affective instability, physically self damaging acts, and chronic feelings of boredom and emptyness. It is theorised
that this disorder arose because of deficits in early parenting experiences which did not enable the child to develop a core
identity, so they didnt feel part of a fused dyad, which explains their fear of abandonment and intolerence of being alone.
ANTISOCIAL BEHAVIOUR IN ADOPTEES. ADOPTED CHILD SYNDROME.
Kirshner.D. Nagel.L. 1988.
Is there a distinct pattern of presenting behaviours and symptoms among adopted children and adolescents referred
for psychotherapy? Some clinicians and clinical researchers whose day to day observations strongly suggest that such a pattern
does, in fact exist. The senior author has observed extreme provocative, aggressive, antisocial, and delinquent conduct much
more consistently among adoptees than their non-adopted counterparts.
Behind the recurrent behavioural and personality patterns there have emerged emotional and psychodynamic issues
specifically linked to adoption.
Schecter, Carlson, Simmons, & Work (1964) looked at adopted and non-adopted children in a psychiatric setting
and found a much greater occurrence of overt destructive acts and sexual acting-out among adoptees. Menlove (1965) used a
similar sample and found significantly more aggressive symptomatology among adoptees. Although several predicted differences
were significant, adoptees had significantly more hyperactivity, hostility, and negativism, and significantly more of them
had passive-aggressive personalities.
What then is the adopted child syndrome? On the behaviourial level, it it is an antisocial pattern that usually
includes pathological lying, stealing, and manipulativeness. Fire setting is sometimes seen and promiscuous behaviour is common.
Typically, the child seeks out delinquent, antisocial children or adults often of a lower economic class than the
adoptive family. Provocative, disruptive behaviour is directed toward authority figures, notably teachers and parents. The
child often threatens to run away, and in many cases repeatedly does so.
Truancy is common, as well as academic under-achievement and, in many cases there are significant learning problems.
There is a typically shallow quality to the attachment formed by the child, and a general lack of meaningful relationships.
The child reports feeling "different" and "empty".
Yet the parents of most children with the Adopted Child Syndrome exhibit a pattern of tension and denial surrounding
the issue of adoption. It soon becomes apparent however, that communication about adoption is not simply absent; much worse,
the parents are tacitly communicating a message that the topic is dangerous and taboo.
The child, sensing his parents' insecurity and anxiety, is left to imagine what terrible truths they might be hiding.
He feels an ominous pressure against voicing his feelings and curiosity. He senses that his adoptive parents would feel his
interest in his birth parents was disloyal. He not only experiences a dread of the truth but also the stifling of his normal
IDENTITY IN ADOPTEES.
Treadwell Penny, talks about Dr F.H. Stone, former consultant in child psychiatry at the Royal Hospital for sick
children in Glasgow. Writing about the problems of identity experienced in adolescence by adopted children, Stone says:
"When there are emotional problems, really basic problems connected with identification, something is
likely to happen. Instead of the young person playing roles, he may very actively take on a particular favoured role, which
he proceeds to live, and this role tends often to be the least in favour with the parents or other adults who care for this
Psychologist Erick Erickson. . . calls this a "negative identity". One can readily
appreciate the relevance of this to the adoptive situation, because here we see the danger, in the confusion or embarrassment
of explaining to the child about the natural mother or father, of denigrating them either as people who abandoned him, who
did not care for him, or who had certain attributes of personality or behaviour. The danger here is that this will backlash,
and later on, especially in adolescence, this is precisely the mode of behaviour which the child adopts in his "negative identity".
And so we see again and again in our clinics the parents of teenagers who come to us in utter despair and say `Not
only are we worried about the child, but the very things we have always been most afraid of: thats what he is doing'. If it
was drugs then it was drugs; if it was promiscuity it was promiscuity; if it was failure to learn then it was failure to learn".
WHY DO ADOPTEES SEARCH?
Robert.S. Andersen asks; "What then about the question as to why the adoptees are searching? This question can
be paraphrased thus: "Why are you interested in your mother, your father, your sisters, brothers, grandparents, cousins, nieces,
nephews, ancestry, history, aptitudes, liabilities - in short why are you interested in you?"
This is the tragedy, that adoptees more often than not do not feel justified in living life as it is, but have
to come out with socially acceptable excuses to justify their interest, needs, and their lives.
They cannot be honest with themselves or others because the conflictual forces, external if in the form of "how
could you do this to your adoptive parents", or internal if in the form of "she gave me up and I do not want to give her the
satisfaction of knowing that it matters", interfere with the living of life from their own original position.
Searching, is not simply an intellectual activity for the adoptee. There is an emotional component as well, and
it is my belief that this emotional component is the most important part. If one genuinely wonders why adoptees search, I
think that a comprehensive answer must include the following: On one level, adoptees search so they might see, touch, and
talk to their biological mother - the search is an effort to make contact with one's biological family. On a different level
(the bottom line), it is something more than this. I think that the search is most fundamentally, an expression of the wish
to undo the trauma of separation.
Adoptees either hope (unrealistically, but not necessarily unexpectantly) to relive the life that was lost at the
time of the separation, or hope (more realistically) to heal the wound caused by the separation, and therefore provide a more
solid base for their lives.
SEVEN CORE ISSUES OF ADOPTION.
Kaplan.S.; Silverstein. D.:
- Loss: Adoption is created through loss. Without loss there can be no adoption.
- Rejection: One way people deal with loss is to figure out what they did was wrong so they can keep from having
other losses. In doing this, people may conclude they suffered losses because they were unworthy of having whatever was lost.
As a result they feel they were rejected.
- Guilt and shame: When people personalize a loss to the extent that they feel there is something intrinsically
wrong with themselves that caused the loss, they often feel guilt that they did something wrong or feel shame that others
may know. (Silverstein).
- Grief: Because adoption is seen as a problem solving event in which everyone gains, rather than an event in which
loss is integral, it is difficult for adoptees, adoptive parents, and birthparents to grieve. There are no rituals to bury
unborn children, roles, dead dreams and disconnected families.
- Identity: A person's identity is derived from who he is and what he is not. Adoption threatens a persons knowing
of who he is, where he came from, and where he is going.
- Intimacy: People who are confused about their identity have difficulty getting close to anyone, Kaplan says. And
people who have had significant loss in their lives may fear getting close to others because of the risk of experiencing loss
- Control: All those involved with adoption have been "forced to give up control" said Silverstein. Adoption is
a second choice. There is a crisis who's resolution is adoption.
Unlike the adoptive mother the baby has experienced pregnancy. The child-in-the-womb has built up a a rhythmical
biological bond with the woman who will not be his mother. Prenatal psychologists believe the adopted baby has to learn to
separate from the mother he has known in-utro and form an attachment to the new set of parents. Some adoptive parents believe
They feel that the newborn baby has already had intimate prenatal and birth experiences and possible memories from
which they are excluded. These parents interpret the babies cries or discomfort as pining for the birthmother's smell, her
touch, the sound of her voice or naturally synchronized rhythmicity. Such hypersensitivity and fear of rejection by the the
baby may reflect the adopting parents own unconfessed preferences for a "natural child" of their own.
Arrival of an adopted baby revives the sense of having "stolen" a child they were not entitled to have. In addition,
fantasies about the babies unknown conceptual and genetic history contribute to difficulties in falling in love with the little
stranger who is to be part of their lives.
THE PRIMAL WOUND.
Verrier Nancy, 1991, believes that during gestation a mother becomes uniquely sensitised to her baby. Donald Winnicot
called this phenomenon, primary maternal preoccupation. He believed that toward the end of pregnancy, the mother develops
a state of heightened sensitivity, which provides a setting for the infants constitution to begin to make itself evident,
for the developmental tendencies to start to unfold and for the infant to experience spontaneous movement.
He stressed the mother alone knows what the baby could be feeling and what he needs, because everyone else is outside
The mothers hormonal, physiological, constitutional and emotional preparation provides the child with a security,
which no one else can. There is a natural flow from the in-utro experience of the baby safely confined in the womb to that
of the baby secure within the mothers arms, to the wanderings of the toddler who is secure in the mothers proximity to her.
This security provides the child with a sense of rightness and wholeness of self.
For these babies and their mother, relinquishment and adoption are not concepts, they are experiences they can
never fully recover from. A child can certainly attach to another care giver, but rather than a secure, serene feeling of
oneness, the attachment is one in which the adoptive relationship may be what Bowlby has referred to as anxious attachment.
He noted that "provided there is one particular mother figure to who he can relate and who mothers him lovingly,
he will in time take to and treat her as though she were almost his mother. That "almost" is the feeling expressed by the
adoptive mothers who feel as if they had accepted the infant but the infant had not quite accepted them as mother.