Understanding Adopted Child Syndrome

Adopting a child comes with a great deal of love and excitement. It is a joyous yet overwhelming time for everyone involved. Many challenges can arise throughout the process and affect the adoptee even into adulthood. Although the American Psychological Association (APA) does not consider adopted child syndrome an official diagnosis, it is a popular term. Even though the name of this syndrome is not accepted by some experts, research suggests its meaning holds true.


What Is Adopted Child Syndrome?

Adopted child Syndrome is a term used to “diagnose” adoptees who face emotional and behavioral problems caused by adoption. This often leads to serious issues like attachment or bonding disorders. Professionals often argue that these symptoms are not caused by the adoption but by trauma, abuse, or neglect endured before.

Even so, these symptoms require intervention, no matter their background. If a child is traumatized by an experience before their adoption, it doesn’t disappear when they enter a new home. Adoptive parents must educate themselves and know how to handle the child’s need to grieve and adjust.

Of course, adoptive parents do not always know the exact situation their child came from. Nor can they wait around to see if their child shows signs of adopted child syndrome. Being prepared for and aware of the possibility is vital to parenting an adopted child from any background.


Causes of Adopted Child Syndrome

There are a number of reasons and ways a child may experience difficulties once they are adopted:

  1. Children who are adopted may feel like their birth parents abandoned or rejected them. They may feel as though they have lost something by being removed from them. Even if their biological parents have died, these feelings don’t always go away easily and can emerge at any time. A child may want to find their biological parents, ask questions about them, or even want to meet them.
  2. Adopted children might grieve the loss of their biological parents. They may feel as if they are unwanted because of something they did. This can lead to struggles with self-esteem and self-worth and outweigh the support of adoptive parents.
  3. Adopted children may experience guilt for wanting to find or meet their biological parents when they love their adoptive parents. They might feel like they’re being ungrateful or betraying the parents they know and love with these desires.
  4. Children from interracial adoptions may feel alienated from their culture or heritage. Avoiding discussion on a child’s race can leave them feeling helplessness and unsure as they develop their own identity.
  5. Some adopted children may feel like they have a hole in their past or identity. They struggle to understand who they are because they don’t know where they came from. That lack of information can lead to identity struggles later in life.
  6. Children who are not aware of their adoption until later in life deal with tons of emotions at once. They may be curious about their biological family but also feel betrayed by their adoptive family for lying. Most experts recommend discussing adoption with children from a young age, celebrating their adoption day, and sharing their adoption story.
  7. Lacking knowledge of biological history can also become a problem for adopted children when it comes to their medical history. A child can be comforted when made aware of possible genetic diseases and diagnoses if they know their history. 


How to Prevent Adopted Child Syndrome

It is important to note that not all adopted children will develop these particular problems or any others. However, it is always important to be aware of the possibility. You can educate yourself through adoption support groups, family therapy, and sound research.

You can also ensure your child feels as safe with you as possible. Do not ignore their past. Talk with them about anything they remember from their time before meeting you. Be open with your child and accept their more unpleasant emotions. Make sure they know it’s okay to have complicated feelings towards their past, even if they’re happy in the present. It can be hard to hear such things from your child but continue to make their well-being your priority.

Assuming that your adopted child will not have any problems because they’re well behaved and happy is naive. Remember that adopted child syndrome may not show until the teen or adult years. When a child begins to build their identity, they need to consider both their adoptive and birth families.

Not every problem an adopted child has is related to their adoption or their past. Children develop psychological and physical issues for all sorts of reasons. Adoption should not always be blamed for all problems that arise. They may have behavioral issues because of something happening at school or feel sad because they got rejected by friends. Learning disabilities, mental health disorders, and even allergies can be linked to psychological and behavioral issues. Watch out for these things in your adopted child just as you would a biological child.


Let us help you

Adopted child Syndrome is not a medical term but it encompasses many problems adopted children may develop throughout their lives. Adoptive parents should be aware of these possibilities so they can handle them with patience and support if they arise.

If your child is experiencing distress or struggling to deal with trauma, the caring staff at Havenwood Academy can help. We provide the care and tools needed to support your family through troubling times. Havenwood uses individual and family therapy so you can stay involved in your child’s care and progress. Come work with us to find a solution so that you and your family can heal.

Call (435) 586-2500 to learn more about our long-term residential program for teen girls. 



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