Common Misconceptions of Adoption

There are no simple answers, of course, especially to those who have personally had difficult experiences with adoption.  The good news, though, is that the overwhelming majority of adoptions turn out just fine.  Below are some common myths about adoption and our answers to them based on the most current research available.

1) MYTH: Adopted children are not as well adjusted as those who live with both biological parents.

FACT: Adopted children grow up to be just as balanced and socially adept as an average cross section of their peers who grew up with one or both biological parents [Borders, et al, 2000] [1].  Also, adopted people have more positive views of family and marriage stability than those from alternative families such as those with divorced parents or a single parent. They are more likely to desire to get married and have children of their own when they settle down than those from alternative families [Hamilton, et al, 2007] [2].

One four-year study by the Search Institute in Minnesota found that adopted teenagers had greater empathy, higher self-esteem and more close friends than non-adopted teenagers in public schools, and were also less likely to engage in high-risk behavior, such as stealing and excessive  drinking. In all, they scored higher than the control group on 16 indicators of well-being.

They were as strongly attached to their parents as their non-adopted siblings. Indeed, contrary to Hollywood movies portraying adopted kids mystically driven to find their biological parents, the majority of adopted teenagers rarely thought about the fact that they were adopted.

2) MYTH: The relationship between parents and an adopted child cannot be as strong as that of a biological parent-child relationship.

FACT: Although adoptive relationships may take more effort than relationships in biological families, it is very possible for adoptive parent-child relationships to be just as close as the average biological parent-child relationship. Studies have shown that parent-child relationships are not dependent on biological ties [Passmore, et al, 2005] [3].

3) MYTH: Adoptive parents are less involved in their children’s lives than the average biological family.

FACT: Actually, adoptive parents tend to be more involved in their children’s lives than the average biological family. They are significantly more involved in parent-teacher conferences and volunteering in school functions. Also, adoptive families are more likely to eat meals together, be involved in extracurricular activities, and read more books together [Hamilton, et al, 2007] [2].

4) MYTH: If I place my child for adoption, I have no idea what kind of family they will end up in or if they will be raised in foster care.

FACT: In open and semi-open adoptions, most adoption agencies allow the birthmother to personally select the family her child is placed in as well as the kind of people they are.  Even if you choose a closed adoption, you can still choose an adoption agency that guarantees that your child will be adopted immediately. Screening processes for the families are extensive, especially if you choose an agency with a well designed screening process. You can also give the agency information on the type of family you would like chosen, including factors like religion, age, number of other children, race, and whether the mother stays at home. [4].

5) MYTH: Adoption is just another form of abandonment.

FACT: By making a plan for adoption, you are recognizing that you may not be able to give your child everything she needs to grow up healthy and with every opportunity at a stable life. Choosing adoption requires a selflessness that puts your child’s well being above your own feelings or desires. There is a big difference between caring enough to find a good home for your child and abandoning your child out of fear.  Adoption is a selfless act of love.

6) MYTH: After the adoption is finalized, the birth mother is abandoned with no support to overcome the loss.

FACT: The majority of agencies offer post-adoption counseling to help the birthmother cope with the loss of her child. There are also pregnancy resouce centers that offer counseling and support for those who have placed thier child for adoption.  The months following the adoption of your child can be an emotional roller coaster, but you don’t have to go through the experience alone.

[1] [Borders, L. D., Penny, J. M., Portnoy, F., Adult Adoptees and their Friends: Current Functioning and Psychosocial Well-being. Family Relations. Minneapolis: (2000). 49 (4). p. 407-419.]

[2] [Hamilton, L., Cheng, S., Powell, B. Adoptive Parents, Adaptive Parents: Evaluating the Importance of Biological Ties for Parental Investment. American Sociological Review. Albany: (2007). 72 (1). P 95-117.][3] [Passmore, N., Fogarty, G. J., Bourke, C. J., Baker-Evans, S. F. Parental Bonding and Identity Style as Correlates of Self-Esteem Among Adult Adoptees and Nonadoptees. Family Relations. Minneapolis: (2005). 54 (4) p. 523-534.]

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