Adoption doesn’t end when you’re placed with your adoptive family. The process of adoption is a lifelong one for everyone involved, and emotional explorations of an individual’s adoption journey are ongoing.
Everyone’s experience with adoption is unique, so the ways that your adoption will affect you will be equally unique. No two adoptees will experience the exact same impact of adoption.
That being said, there are some general long-term effects of adoption, both positive and negative, that have been noted.
Negative Effects of Adoption on Adoptees
While adoption is a mostly positive experience for many adoptees, some people have experienced negative effects of adoption on children.
Potential for Lasting Mental or Emotional Trauma
For some people, the adoption effects on the child’s mental and emotional health can be negative. Possible psychological effects of adoption on the child may include:
- Struggles with low self-esteem
- Identity issues, or feeling unsure of where they ‘fit in’
- Difficulty forming emotional attachments
- A sense of grief or loss related to their birth family
While these negative effects of adoption on children can be short-lived, they will typically manifest and then dissipate sporadically throughout an adoptee’s life, often during milestones or times of emotional stress. If you’re experiencing any of these negative mental or emotional effects of being adopted, then counseling from a therapist who has experience with adoption-related issues may be beneficial.
Lack of Information for Adoptees of Closed Adoptions
One of the problems of adopted adults is the lack of information available to adoptees in closed adoptions. Although almost all adoptions today are open, there are many adult adoptees who struggle with the negative effects of adoption on adults that the closed adoption era caused. These difficulties include:
- A lack of medical or social history, making it difficult for these adoptees and their children to diagnose health problems.
- No knowledge of where they inherited some genetic physical or personality traits.
- No answers about why they were placed for adoption.
- Little to no information about their birth family, making it difficult to search for biological family if an adoptee ever wishes to contact them as an adult.
- Emotionally complex reunions with birth family, if they’re able to find their birth family at all.
These negative effects of adoption on adults, while painful and frustrating, are being prevented for future generations with the increase in openness in adoptions.
Positive Effects of Adoption on Adoptees
Despite the potential for negative effects of adoption on a child, there are many positive long-term effects of adoption that you may experience.
Statistical Advantages of Adoptees Over Non-Adopted Persons
There are studies that suggest adoptees may be better off than children who are not adopted. In a 2007 report conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 85 percent of adopted children were found in “very good to excellent health,” and adopted children were more likely to have health insurance than children who were not adopted. Adopted children were also less likely to live in households below the poverty line.
Sixty-eight percent of adoptees are read to every day as young children, versus 48 percent of children who are not adopted, the same study found. Seventy-three percent of adopted children were sung to and told stories to every day, compared to 59 percent of children who were not adopted. Adopted children are more likely to participate in extracurricular activities while in grade school (85 percent vs. 81 percent of children in the general population), and more than half were reported to have “very good or excellent” performance in reading, language arts and math in school.
These numbers suggest that one of the effects of adoption on child development is overall improvement in health, performance in school, and increased family involvement.
Access to More Opportunities and a ‘Head Start’ in Life
An expectant mother may choose adoption for her child for any number of reasons. She may be experiencing financial, physical, mental or emotional difficulties that she feels would prevent her from providing her child with the quality of life she wishes him or her to have. So she chooses an adoptive family who is able to provide the life for her child that she feels will be able to offer her child more opportunities.
These opportunities may include:
- The ability to spend more time together as a family
- The ability to pursue a higher education
- A two-parent household
- The opportunity to travel
- A safe and stable home
- Financial stability
- Extended family
- And more
Some of the long-term effects of being adopted include always having access to the opportunities that your adoptive family was able to provide. While birth parents love their children immeasurably, they may not always be able to offer them all the opportunities and advantages that a family who is prepared and waiting for a child would be able to offer.
How Does Being Adopted Affect a Person?
You and your adoption are unique. Every situation is different, as are the people involved in each adoption. So the long-term effects of being adopted will be unique to every adoptee.
While the impact of adoption on adoptees almost always includes both negative and positive effects, the benefits generally outweigh the drawbacks. Ultimately, you have two families who love you, and adoption was what brought all of you together.