Who Am I?

Topics: Adoption, Closed adoption, Open adoption Pages: 6 (2010 words) Published: April 26, 2000
Who Am I?

The amount of research that has been conducted about adoptees and their problems with identity development is enormous. Many of the researchers agree on some of the causes of identity formation problems in adolescent adoptees, while other researchers conclude that there is no significant difference in identity formation in adoptees as birth children. This paper will discuss some of the research which has been conducted and will attempt to answer the following questions: Do adoptees develop identity formation difficulties during adolescence? If so, what are some of the causes of these unpredictable changes? And finally does the role of te adoptive parent play a crucial role in the adoptee's identity devolpment? The National Adoption Center reports that fifty-two percent of adoptable children have attachment disorder symptoms. It was also found that the older the child when adopted, the higher the risk of social maladjustment (Benson, 1998). This is to say that a child who is "adopted during infancy to a loving home, usually progress' rapidly, especially in the cognitive development" (Myers, 1999). Myers also states that "babies reared in constitutions without the stimulation of a regular care-giver are often withdrawn, frightened even speechless. This may be due in part to the probability that an infant will learn how to trust, where as a ten-year-old may have more difficulty with this task, depending on his history "The quality of attachment and the foundational sense of basic trust that derives from it, sets the stage for significant developmental outcomes concerning the individual's sense of self participation in relationship" (McRoy 1990 ). Eric Erickson, a developmental theorist, discusses trust issues in his theory of development. The first of Erickson's stages of development is Trust v. Mistrust which takes place during infancy. A child who experiences neglect or abuse can have this stage of development severely damaged. An adopted infant may have the opportunity to fully learn trust, where as an older child may have been shuffled from foster home to foster home as an infant, thereby never learning trust. Even though Trust v. Mistrust is a major stage of development, "the greatest psychological risk for adopted children occurs during the middle childhood and adolescent years" (McRoy. 1990). As children grow and change into adolescents, they begin to search for an identity by finding anchoring points with which to relate. This is the fifth stage of Erickson's model, which is called Identity v. role confusion. This is the time when "teenagers work at refining a sense of self by testing roles and then integrating them to form a single identity, or they become confused about who they are. The gradual re-shaping of self-definition that unifies the various selves into a consistent and comfortable sense of who one is, is an identity" (Myers.1999). Unfortunately, adopted children do not have a biological example to which to turn (Horner & Rosenberg, 1991), unless they had an open adoption in which they were able to form a relationship with their biological families as well as their adoptive ones. Also key to the development of trust is the ability to bond with adoptive parents. The absence of a biological bond between the adoptee and adoptive parents may cause trust issues in the adoptee (Wegar, 1995). Baran (1975) stated, "Late adolescence . . . is the period of intensified identity concerns and is a time when the feelings about adoption become more intense and questions about the past increase." Unless the adopted child has the answers to these arising questions, identity formation can be altered and somewhat halted. McRoy. (1990) agrees with this point: Adolescence is a period when young people seek an integrated and stable ego identity. This occurs as they seek to link their current self-perceptions with their 'self perceptions from earlier periods and with their cultural and biological...

Cited: Baran, A., Pannor, R., & Sorosky, A. (1975). Identity Conflicts
in Adoptees
Benson, P., McGue, M., & Sharma, A. (1998). The Psychological Adjustment of
United States Adopted Adolescents and Their Nonadopted Siblings
Stavrakaki, C. (1988). Psychiatric Disorders in Adopted Children: A Controlled Study. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 58(4), 608-611.
Horner, T., & Rosenberg, E
McRoy, R., Grotevant, H., Furuta, A., & Lopez, S. (1990). Adoption Revelation and Communication Issues: Implications for Practice. Families in Society, 71, 550-
Myers, David G. (1999). Exploring Psychology Fourth Edition. New York, New York.
Wegar, K. (1995). Adoption and Mental Health: A Theoretical Critique of the
Psychopathological Model
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