Featured Post

Adoption and Child Separation at the Border

On June 1, 2018 Rebekah Henson published an important thread on Twitter critiquing the hashtags #FamiliesBelongTogether and #Ke...

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Let's Talk Adoption, The Atlantic, and Paradoxes

Today's prompt: Talk about the assumption that adoptive parents are not only better than their children’s birth parents, but also better parents than others who are raising their own biological children.

Recently, the Institute of Family Studies published a blog post taking on the difficulty with obtaining statistics on adopted children's educational outcomes. The author conducted an analysis of a longitudinal study starting in 1998 that captured data of 19000 kindergartners in which information from 160 adopted children and families could be found. From the data, the author concluded that adopted children, "display above-average levels of problem behavior, exhibit below-average levels of positive learning attitudes, and score below average on reading and math assessments, despite their advantaged family background." Three reasons were hypothesized to explain these disparity: attachment issues, past trauma, and "genetic endowment." 

As this critique suggests, the report makes alarming generalizations regarding what we can know about adopted children from this data, and about attachment, trauma, and genetics. First, attachment should not be just casually mentioned considering how attachment theory and DSM criteria for attachment disorders is often misapplied in adoption to pathologize and blame children for their experiences. Second, addressing trauma was regarded as nearly hopeless. No credit is given to resiliency or post-traumatic growth. Third, the idea that adopted children are genetically inferior to their adoptive parents because birth parents must be genetically inferior, as evidenced by adoptive parent wealth and education, is outrageous at very best.

The Atlantic, no stranger to publishing adult-centric articles that pathologize children, took this one step further. Its highlight of the IFS post went so far as to say reading books to children, sharing family meals, and being involved in school makes adoptive parents more invested in their children. One study they linked to used these criteria (among others, such as owning a computer) to measure how invested adoptive parents are in raising children not biologically related to them.