Adoption is unique, and brings with it many challenges and benefits that adoptees will face at various times throughout their lives. Now that many studies have been done on adoptees as adults, it is possible to examine how adoption affects children into their adulthood. The Child Welfare Information Gateway concludes that, in general, adopted persons go on to lead lives that are similar to the lives of their non-adopted peers.
What the Experts are Saying
Dr. Patrick F. Fagan, psychologist and Director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, after reviewing research and studies done on adoptees, concludes that adoption is "life-alteringly beneficial for children." He points to a study done in the United Kingdom, which sampled a group of adoptees at age 23 and 33 to a comparison group of non-adopted adults and a group from the general population. Adopted women showed overwhelmingly positive gains -- even compared to the group from the general population. At age 33, nearly all of the adopted men and women out-performed their non-adopted peers socially and economically. Many adoptees were raised in families where parents were educated, loving and supportive and had homes that provided material advantages they may otherwise have not received.
Fagan also says that adopted children outperform their non-adopted siblings in math and reading. Adopted boys even outscore the general population in the area of reading -- which Fagan attributes to the fact that adoptive parents take exceptional interest in their children's education. A study by Sandra Scarr, a professor of psychology at Yale University, and Richard Weinberg, a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, found that, while adopted children may struggle academically early after their placement, there are eventually no differences between the IQ scores of adopted siblings and biological siblings brought up in the same household.
Loss and Grief
An article published for the Child Welfare Information Gateway entitled "Impact of Adoption on Adopted Persons" reminds parents that every adopted child experiences grief at some point in his life because of the loss of his first family. Even those adopted as newborns experience the loss of their connection with their birth moms -- though they may not be able to articulate their grief until later on in life. This loss can lead to feelings of rejection as they wonder why their birth moms gave them up for adoption.
In his book "Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self," author David Brodzinsky points out that adolescence can be a time when adoptees begin to question their identity. In the case of closed domestic adoption or international adoptions where not much history is known, an adopted child may wonder about his background, what his parents looked like and acted like -- and how much of him is a genetic result of his birth family compared to the way he has been brought up by his adoptive family.