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The Impact of Secrecy and Denial in Adoption: Practice and Treatment Issues

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Abstract

During the past five decades, adoption practice has been characterized by secrecy and denial. This closed system of adoption has its roots in the assumption that adoption is a one-time legal event. More recently, professionals are recognizing that adoption is a life-long process with profound effects for adoption triad members throughout their lives. The authors present practice and treatment issues and outline interventions for this specialized population. These issues are reviewed in the context of the experience of adoptees, birth mothers, and adoptive parents. Case anecdotes are used to elucidate points.
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... In open adoption systems, contact can be initiated and maintained between birth parents and adoptees. In closed adoption systems, there is no contact at any point as adoption is perceived as a time-specific event rather than a lifelong process (Demick and Warner, 1988;Rosenberg and Groze, 1997). Adoptees are unable to access birth records and other associated documents, which can have a negative impact on the individual throughout their lifespan (Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, 2021). ...
... The specific event of finding out is often recalled as a traumatic experience (Baden et al., 2019) that creates a sense of mistrust between the adopted individual and adoptive parents (Passmore, Feeney and Foulstone, 2007). Further, secrecy within the administrative systems, such as the blocking of access to birth information, prevents a fuller integration of identity (Rosenberg and Groze, 1997). However, there are considerable differences in individual responses. ...
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There is limited research into the experiences of adopted individuals in adulthood despite the fact that adoption is a lifelong process. One key element of adoption is the processing and integration of one's adoptive identity. This becomes increasingly salient in adulthood and especially so when becoming a parent as it leads to a re-examination of the individual's adoptive narrative. However, this phenomenon is not well researched and lacks a theoretical framework. This study employed a classic grounded theory (CGT) methodology to develop a theory that explains how adopted individuals readjust their adoptive identity when they become parents. Twelve interviews were conducted with adoptees who had become parents and analysed using CGT. From this data, the theory of Creating a New Narrative emerged to chart the process and explain how adopted individuals readjust their adoptive identity in parenthood. It involves parents revisiting their adoption narrative and being empowered to reclaim their identity, rescript their family concept and parenting values and expand their repertoire for navigating hypervigilance regarding rejection. All of these elements are influenced by the level of openness and acceptance parents have experienced in relation to their adoptive status. The model thus provides a new theoretical framework that integrates the various research findings in this area.
... Transition time difficulties have also been found in birth mothers, e.g., difficulty in the decision for a second child or on a birthday (Grotevant et al. 1998). Moreover, relinquishment has a physical, emotional, psychological impact on mothers for the rest of their lives (Rosenberg and Groze 1997). Relinquishment is an actual loss like the death of a loved one or job loss . ...
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The literature suggests long-term consequences and lack of support for birthmothers following relinquishment of their child for adoption (Memarnia in Listening to the experience of birth mothers whose children have been taken into care or adopted, 2014). But there was not any work done to study in-depth experiences of birthmothers after giving away their child in Pakistan. So, the purpose of the present study was to explore the experiences of mothers who relinquished their child for adoption. As the present study was intended to explore lived experiences of a particular group, the phenomenological research design was used to conduct this qualitative study. An interview protocol was devised to explore the experiences of birthmothers. The sample was comprised of five birthmothers who relinquished their child for adoption and fulfilled the criteria. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the birthmothers, and all the interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed before analysis. Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to interpret the transcripts of interviews. Further, data verification was done through peer scrutiny, by debriefing sessions with the supervisor, and enriches the description of the phenomenon. Four main themes were emerged: Reasons to Relinquish, Psychological Distress, Coping Strategies, and Disenfranchised Grief. The study present that the experience of relinquishment has a negative impact on birthmother and highlights the need for proper measures to regulate the process of adoption and involvement of psychologists during the process of adoption. Moreover, it stresses the need for acknowledgment of the experience and psychological services for birthmothers who relinquish their child.
... The majority of researchers regard adoption as an ongoing life experience that places adoptees at risk for lifelong psychosocial adjustment and attachment difficulties (Brodzinsky, Schecter, & Henig, 1992;Haenga-Collins & Gibbs, 2015;Howe & Feast, 2000;Rosenberg & Groze, 1997). Developmental challenges across the lifespan are not necessarily successfully negotiated or overcome as adopted adults grow older. ...
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In the last two decades, researchers and clinicians have started exploring the wide range of lifelong impacts of adoption on adult adoptees. Several studies have suggested that adoptees may be at greater risk for insecure attachments than non-adopted people, thus contributing to difficulties in forming satisfying interpersonal relationships. The aim of this article is to systematically review the evidence about the nature and quality of adult adoptees' intimate relationships with their partners and children. After systematically searching most major article databases and "hand" searching major adoption journals, the review included 15 quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-method studies that fulfilled the selection criteria (domestically adopted adult participants over the age of 18; published and grey literature since 1997). Following data extraction and synthesis, themes emerged across the literature suggesting that being adopted is influential in intimate relationships for some adoptees, with complexities of attachment, anxiety, and ambivalence characterising their relationships with partners and experiences of parenting across the lifespan. Methodological and sampling limitations in the studies preclude application to adoptees generally but rich descriptive data provides useful insights for counsellors who may work therapeutically with this population.
... questions about their adoptive status enhances children's identity development (Wrobel, Kohler, Grotevant, & McRoy, 2003) and overall psychological adjustment (Brodzinsky, 2013). Likewise, parental secrecy and discomfort in discussing adoption are related to compromised psychological adjustment and identity formation among adopted children (Brodzinsky, 2013;Rosenberg & Groza, 1997). ...
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Adoptive parents may be placed with children conceived under difficult circumstances, such as via rape or incest. At the same time, adoptive parents are generally encouraged to communicate openly with their children about their adoption stories and birth families. No research has examined the experiences of parents who adopt children who were conceived through rape or incest. This exploratory study examines how parents discuss their decision-making when adopting children conceived via rape or incest, how they manage varying levels of uncertainty about their children's origins, and whether and how they plan to disclose this information to children. The researchers used thematic analysis to examine the experiences of 11 couples (22 parents) interviewed at four time points after adopting children who were reportedly conceived via rape or incest. Findings revealed that even soon after adopting, parents discussed the need to eventually talk to their children about their conception circumstances. Parents generally struggled to determine how and when to disclose this information, particularly when they felt uncertain about the veracity of the conception stories they had been told. Some hoped to rely on professionals or birth mothers to guide them in these communications. Findings have implications for supporting adoptive families as they navigate the complexity of managing sensitive information and uncertainty when adopting children conceived through rape or incest. Practitioners should provide ongoing guidance to adoptive parents about how and when to disclose developmentally appropriate information to children about difficult conception circumstances. © 2019 Family Process Institute.
... As a result, family secrets and maintenance of those secrets can have an impact on all those involved. For example, adoptive parents who deny that their children are adopted can create barriers to the adoptees progressing through the normal developmental stages (Rosenberg & Groze, 1997), but adoptees' responses to those secrets can be especially challenging. Passmore et al. (2006) addressed the impact of secrecy on adoptees and reported that greater openness and honesty in adoptive families was related to increased closeness, whereas greater secrecy was associated with more distant relationships (e.g., more avoidant and anxious attachment, greater social loneliness, and higher risk intimacy). ...
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Despite common recommendations from professionals that adoption disclosure should be done at early ages, reports suggest that a sizeable number of adult adoptees do not learn of their adoption status until older ages. The few studies that exist indicate that the late discovery of adoption is linked to psychological distress and feelings of anger, betrayal, depression, and anxiety. In this mixed-method study, 254 adult adoptees completed a survey consisting of the K10 (Kessler Distress Inventory) the World Health Organization Quality of Life Scale–BREF, open-ended prompts, and demographic items. Results indicated that those who learned of their adoptions from age 3 and older reported more distress and lower life satisfaction when controlling for the amount of time adoptees have known of their adoption statuses and their use of coping strategies. Adoptees also indicated a desire for communicative openness and reported that beneficial coping methods included supportive relationships and seeking contact with birth relatives and other adoptees.
... As a result, family secrets and maintenance of those secrets can have an impact on all those involved. For example, adoptive parents who deny that their children are adopted can create barriers to the adoptees progressing through the normal developmental stages (Rosenberg & Groze, 1997), but adoptees' responses to those secrets can be especially challenging. Passmore et al. (2006) addressed the impact of secrecy on adoptees and reported that greater openness and honesty in adoptive families was related to increased closeness, whereas greater secrecy was associated with more distant relationships (e.g., more avoidant and anxious attachment, greater social loneliness, and higher risk intimacy). ...
Article
In this mixed-methods study, 118 adult adoptees completed an online survey gathering information on (a) reasons for seeking therapy, (b) preferences for therapists, (c) perception of therapists' degree of emphasis on adoption during therapy, and (d) relationship satisfaction with adoptive and birth family members. The participants also completed the Satisfaction With Therapy and Therapist Scale-Revised (STTS-R), Adoptive Identity Questionnaire (AIQ), and Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (SES). Findings were that the therapists' adoption competence was the most important factor for adoptees in selecting therapists, adoption-related issues were the most common reason adoptees sought therapy, and adoptees reported being more satisfied with therapy if their therapists placed emphasis on adoption regardless of the amount of attention that was focused on adoption.
... Estos estudios también reflejan que, cuando los padres transmiten a sus hijos toda la información que conocen sobre su historia adoptiva, éstos tienen una menor necesidad de completar sus vacíos emprendiendo búsquedas sobre sus orígenes. Por último, estos estudios señalan que una mayor comunicación sobre adopción favorece una mayor sensación de pertenencia a las familias adoptivas en los adultos adoptados, lo que de nuevo contradice que algunos padres adoptivos no conversen con sus hijos adoptados porque temen generarles dudas acerca de su pertenencia.En el sentido contrario, parece que el secretismo y la negación de la historia adoptiva por parte de los padres adoptivos tiene un efecto adverso sobre la identidad, el ajuste, el bienestar y la sensación de pertenencia de los adoptados(Rosenberg & Groze, 1997).Teniendo en cuenta estos resultados, es fundamental que los padres adoptivos sean conscientes de que la comunicación sobre los temas relacionados con la adopción es fundamental para el desarrollo identitario y el ajuste psicológico de sus hijos. En este sentido, desde los servicios de apoyo preadoptivo se debe seguir promoviendo que los padres elaboren el duelo de la infertilidad o de posibles pérdidas, que reflexionen sobre los motivos por los que van a adoptar, que asimilen las similitudes y las diferencias entre ser una familia adoptiva y no adoptiva y que acepten que su hijo adoptado tiene una familia biológica y una historia previa(Brodzinsky, 2005). ...
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In the present research, the associations of various sociodemographic variables of the adult adoptee and the adoptive family, of the adoptive process and the family dynamics (family functioning and communication about adoption) with the level of differentiation of self and of attachment of adults adopted in Spain are analyzed. The study involved 50 adopted adults, national and international, of both sexes, between 18 and 51 years of age. To assess the variables, a self-made socio-demographic questionnaire, the Family Adaptability and Cohesion Evaluation Scale-20Esp, the Adoption Communication Scale-Spanish, the Differentiation of Self Scale and the Experiences in Close Relationships-Spanish questionnaire were used. The results showed that differentiation of self of the adopted adults was explained in 27% by family functioning and in 9% by communication about adoption with the mother. It was also observed that differentiation of self was predicted in 58% by avoidance, anxiety and family functioning. In addition, emotional reactivity was explained in 24% by family functioning, while emotional cutoff was predicted in 42% by age of adoption and family functioning. A moderation analysis did not find that family functioning moderated the relationship between age of adoption and emotional cutoff. On the other hand, anxiety was explained in 13% by cohesion, and avoidance was predicted in 9% by adoption age. Likewise, anxiety was explained in 22% by emotional reactivity, and avoidance was predicted in 58% by emotional cutoff. Finally, differentiation of self shared 50% of the variance with avoidance and anxiety. The relevance of the results are discussed.
... Parental comfort with maintaining open communication about the adoption is related to positive adoptee adjustment and overall well-being (Bai, Huh, & Kwon, 2006;Brodzinsky, Schechter, & Brodzinsky, 1986;MacIntyre, 1990). Conversely, secrecy and discomfort with discussing the adoption have been linked with reductions in adoptee well-being, adjustment, and identity formation (Hawkings et al., 2008;Raynor, 1980;Rosenberg & Groze, 1997). Studies conducted on adoption disclosure have focused primarily on Western adoptive families; thus, there is minimal information regarding the effect of adoption disclosure on Asian, and specifically Indian, families. ...
Article
The current study examined the relationship between adoption disclosure and adoptive family adjustment (i.e. children’s problem behaviors and the parent–child relationship) among 55 Indian domestic adoptive parents. The results showed that informing the child of the adoption was not significantly related to problem behaviors or to parent–child relationship. Multiple regression analysis indicated that importance of social disclosure, stronger parent–child relationship, and self-esteem of adoptive parents significantly predicted fewer behavioral problems in children. Post-adoption support should be provided to adoptive families in the form of parental training on issues related to adoption, child development, and how to properly disclose the adoption details to the child. eprinit link: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/x64IDTjHd9zAXPEtRApC/full
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