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Adoption Trauma: - 30 yrs of research on damage to mothers

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Adoption Trauma: The Damage to Relinquishing Mothers:
What They Knew and Didn't Tell Us

These are studies detailing the long-term consequences to natural mothers (”birthmothers”) of surrendering a baby for adoption. This is information that is in standard and widely-known social work and psychology articles and research reports. Adoption “professionals” are familiar with these studies — the findings are common knowledge.

To give informed consent to adoption, mothers need to be informed of these risks. Adoption “professionals” have an obligation to provide mothers with this information. Often they only provide information from studies that show short-term positive educational and financial “outcomes” from surrender (and these “positive outcomes” are debatable in the long-term*).

If you are a mother who surrendered your baby since 1978 and you were not informed of these risks (below), then you did not give informed consent to the adoption, as this information was deliberately withheld from you.

Pannor, R., Baran, A., & Sorosky, A. (1978)

  • Half of mothers surveyed said they have continued to feel loss, pain, and mourning over the child they lost to adoption (even many years later — this included mothers who had surrendered up to 33 years prior).
  • Only 30% expressed “comfort” about the adoption (thus 70% were not comfortable with the adoption and/or felt it was not the outcome they wanted)

Rynearson, E. K. (1982)

  • Eight of the 20 mothers were so traumatized by signing the papers that they were amnesiac of it.
  • All reported recurring dreams of the loss of the baby, with contrasting themes of traumatic separation and joyful reunion.
  • All had unresolved grief, continuing to experience symptoms of mourning at the anniversary of the relinquishment.

Winkler, Dr. R.; and Van Keppel, M. (1984)

  • 45% of mothers surveyed stated that their sense of loss had intensified over the period since surrender and 6.4% stated it had remained the same. For the sample as a whole, this loss remains constant for up to 30 years.
  • Compared to a carefully-matched control group, mothers who had lost a child to adoption had significantly greater psychological impairment afterwards.
  • 53% of the Western Australia respondents and 58.8% of the National Survey respondents stated the surrender of their babies was the most stressful thing they had ever experienced.

Condon, Dr. J. T.(1986)

  • “over half of these women are suffering from severe and disabling grief reactions which are not resolving with the passage of time and which manifest predominantly as depression and psychosomatic symptoms” (p. 118)
  • Over half had used alcohol or sedative medication to help them cope after relinquishment. (p. 118)
  • Feelings of sadness and depression at the time of the surrender were rated on average as between “intense” and “the moist intense ever experienced.”
  • For 67%, these feelings either stayed the same or intensified in the years since surrender, they did not diminish.

Blanton, T., & Deschner, J. (1990)

  • Natural mothers registered significantly stronger symptoms than mothers whose babies had died in 8 of the 14 bereavement subscales.
  • Comparing natural mothers in both open and closed adoptions with parents whose babies had died shows that natural mothers suffer more denial, atypical responses, despair, anger, depersonalization, sleep disturbance, somaticizing, physical symptoms, optimism vs despair, dependency,and vigor. (pp. 532-533)
  • “Relinquishing mothers have more grief symptoms than women who have lost a child to death, including more denial; despair, atypical responses; and disturbances in sleep, appetite, and vigor.”

Weinreb, M. (1991)

  • Mothers’ scores averaged in the mild to moderate range of depression at the time of the study, which was done a number of years post-surrender, significantly higher than the population average.. Indicates that surrender can lead to long-lasting depression.
  • 40% were still experiencing at least moderate acute grief.

Wells, Sue (1993a and b)

  • 136 out of 262 mothers (52%) found that thoughts about their children increased rather than decreased over the years. Unlike a normal loss or bereavement the child is living elsewhere. Many liken it to a “living death.”
  • Half stated that the trauma has affected their physical health.
  • Many experience symptoms of PTSD.
  • 207 out of 262 (79%) indicated that depression and anxiety, as well as difficulties with relationships and trust, as prolonged and profound consequences of surrender.

Edwards, D. S. (1995)

  • … found a range of poor psychological outcomes. The women studied frequently described the experience of placing their children for adoption as the most traumatic event of their lives; and related multiple symptoms of posttraumatic stress

Logan, J. (1996)

  • 21% of mothers had made attempts on their lives
  • 82% reported significant depression as a result of surrender
  • 68% described themselves as having a significant mental health problem.
  • 32% had been referred to specialized psychiatric treatment on an out-patient or in-patient basis and 18% had received treatment for a continuous period of 5 years or longer. This compares to a normative statistic of 3% of all women in the U.K. who were referred in 1993 to the same treatment service.

Kelly, J. (1999)

  • 89% of mothers answered “Extremely true” to the statement “Relinquishing my child was a traumatic experience. 96% answered either “Extremely true” or “Very true.”
  • 95% selected the “most frequent” or “most severe” response to one or more items measuring unresolved grief.
  • In response to items concerning depression, 51% reported experiencing severe depression since the relinquishment, with 97% reporting some degree of depression (mild, moderate, or severe).
  • 63% have had thoughts about killing themselves.
  • 85% stated it was extremely true that “I was either misled or not informed of the effects that relinquishment would have on me”

Askren, H., & Bloom, K. (1999)

  • “A grief reaction unique to the relinquishing mother was identified. Although this reaction consists of features characteristic of the normal grief reaction, these features persist and often lead to chronic, unresolved grief. CONCLUSIONS: The relinquishing mother is at risk for long-term physical, psychologic, and social repercussions. Although interventions have been proposed, little is known about their effectiveness in preventing or alleviating these repercussions.” (p. 395)
  • “comparable to losing an infant through death, it is a very stressful event for the relinquishing mother. This stress, combined with a powerful grief reaction, can predisopose these women to a number of long-term adverse effects” (p. 395)
  • “A woman who goes through the birth process and then relinquishes her child is a risk for the additional emotional stress of lifelong grief” (p. 395)
  • “The reaction of relinquishing mothers to the loss of their children have profound effects that can last for the lifetime of each woman.” (p. 396)

Carr, M. J. (2000)

  • “all were traumatized by the act of relinquishing their child for adoption” (p. 341).

Crowell (2007)

  • 82% of mothers suffered depression after the surrender
  • 80% had feelings of inadequacy
  • 68% trust issues
  • 57% anger

*The outcome of a longitudinal comparison study of mothers who surrendered vs. those who kept their children, thus putting into doubt the common adoption agency promise to expectant mothers that they will ‘benefit’ (socially, financially, and educationally) if they surrender their children:
“The results from our 5 year follow-up lead us to the conclusion that … relinquishment is not a panacea for the problems of adolescent childbearing. Although parenters give birth sooner than relinquishers, almost half of the relinquishers continue to bear children. therefore, many relinquishers assumed the same parental responsibilities as the parenters in this study. “The educational difference between the two groups is small, and few from either group attend college. Earnings for both groups remain depressed.” — Winges, Barnes, Rader, Grady, and Manninen: “Long-Term Consequences for Adolescent Mothers Who Decide to Either Parent or Relinquish their Firstborn Child” (June 30, 1998). Downloadable for free from SSRN: (http://ssrn.com) or DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.104348

References:

  • Askren, H., & Bloom, K. (1999) Post-adoptive reactions of the relinquishing mother: A review. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecological and Neonatal Nursing, 1999 Jul-Aug; 28(4):395-400
  • Blanton, T., & Deschner, J. (1990). Biological mothers’ grief: The postadoptive experience in open versus confidential adoption. Child Welfare, 69, 525-35.
  • Carr, M. J. (2000). Birthmothers and subsequent children: The role of personality traits and attachment history. Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless, 9, 339-348.
  • Condon, J. (1986). Psychological disability in women who relinquish a baby for adoption. The Medical Journal of Australia, 144, 117-119.
  • Crowell, G. (2007). Sisters from the society of secrets and lies: Why Women Chose Adoption between 1950 and 1979. Honors Thesis, University of Texas at Arlington.
  • Edwards, D. S. (1995). Transformation of motherhood in adoption: The experiences of relinquishing mothers. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of North Florida, Jacksonville.
  • Kelly, J. (1999). The trauma of relinquishment: The long-term impact of relinquishment on birthmothers who lost their infants to adoption during the years 1965-1972. (Master’s thesis, Goddard College, 1999). http://home.att.net/~judy.kelly/thesis.htm
  • Logan, J. (1996). Birth mothers and their mental health: Uncharted territory. British Journal of Social Work, 26(5), 609-625.
  • Rynearson, E. (1982). Relinquishment and its maternal complications: A preliminary study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 139(3), 338–340.
  • Weinreb, M.; The psychological experience of women who surrender babies for adoption. Dissertation Abstracts International, 52(6-A), Dec 1991.
  • Wells, S. (1993a). Post-traumatic stress disorder in birthmothers, Adoption and Fostering, 17(2), 30-32.
  • Wells, S. (1993b). What do birthmothers want? Adoption and Fostering, 17(4), 22-26.
  • Winkler, R. & van Keppel, M. (1984). Relinquishing mothers in adoption: Their long-term adjustment. Institute of Family Studies Monograph No. 3. Melbourne, Australia.
by on May. 17, 2010 at 6:28 PM
Replies (11-20):
susie703
by on Jan. 9, 2012 at 3:48 PM
1 mom liked this


Quoting GinaPocan:

HOLY COMOLY, that sure shedded some serious light on ME. I'm now wondering if majority of my phsyc issues all stemmed from my daughters adoption. I know I felt a loss, and have said it before it was worse then if she had died, but these statistics makes me wonder now, if my life hasn't benn compromised by undealt with issues surrounding Angies adoption. But, now that I know this, what the hell do I do with it?

Well, being here is a great start!  I know when I first started coming out of the fog and realizing just how deeply losing my son to adoption effected me, I felt like I was losing my mind. This place was truly a lifesaver for me.  If I hadn't found other moms who have been through this and knew, I mean REALLY knew, what I was going through...  I don't know where I would be today. 

In the beginning I read a lot.  A Lot.  Here, on other websites, blogs, books.  I also started writing in a journal.  It was a lot of venting at first!!  In the very beginning, I couldn't even really come up with single coherant sentences.  I just took pen to paper and started writing whatever came to mind.  I didn't write neatly, it all just poured out. 

A book that I read that helped was:  Adoption Healing

Some websites that might help you:



GinaPocan
by Member on Jan. 11, 2012 at 9:45 AM

My question though is this---- "Who gives a rats ass about the birth mother????" 

We're treated by society like zoo animals during breeding season. 

For the most part, adoption is to satisfy a personal void an adoptive parent seems to need. The birth mother is'nt even a forethought. Just only that she is eating right and seeing a doctor though out the pregnancy, and that's exactly what  zoo keepers do when they mate a gorilla or an elephant. When the animal mother has their young they already have decided where the baby is going to go after it is weened. Chances are they don't even study the separation issues in the animal kingdom either. Mothers are disregarded as incubators. Nothing more. Not even human, sadly. After they take her baby, she no longer exists. In fact they avoid her at all costs.

My God, there are babies all over the world they could go after who need homes. Kids locked up in orphaniges in Romainia, China, Europian Countries, and in South America, where some places don't have orphaniges, and when little ones are found wandering the streets cause they have no parents are shot and killed on site like a wayward dog.

In stead they have to come after someone and turn their lives upside down, and not care what the repercussions are for the mother.

It's disgusting.

Do I have some ager with this? yes I do.

susie703
by on Jan. 11, 2012 at 11:16 AM
1 mom liked this

Yup.  I get it Gina.  It's infuriating.  Even in "successful" open adoptions the basic loss to mother and child are often negated.  For if the mother and child were truly honored, everything possible would be done to keep the family together, not tear it apart.  If a mother is "choosing" adoption because of some temporary situation, how can anyone feel ok taking that child to raise, even if they do keep promises of an open adoption?  How many times lately have we seen where the natural mom can't express her TRUE feelings of loss and grief because it upsets the adoptive parents?  I know of a few cases where the adoptive family has closed the adoption because they think the mother "isn't handling things well".  I know several moms here on CM who can't tell the truth of their loss and grief without amoms here taking that moms experience onto their own adoptive family, keeping the mother of their children distanced from their natural moms "just in case" she feels as the moms here do.  So sad.  So very, very sad.  Very recently here a natural mom who helps counsel pregnant women in unexpected pregnancies to make a FULLY informed choice for/against adoption has become villified for what she is doing.  She has been told that she is "bullying and coercing" these moms to parent when all she is doing is making sure that they know how adoption really effects them and their child. 

I'm ranting again....

onethentwins
by Gold Member on Jan. 11, 2012 at 1:21 PM

Hugs Gina,

I know what you mean about birth mothers' being treated like stud animals.

What always amazes me is how women in crisis pregnancy are encouraged to "do what's right for your baby, don't be selfish, be brave." and then when she does what she thinks is that and chooses adoption, and then expresses grief, or anger, or dissatisfaction with the way her open adoption is being conducted she's firmly told "It was your choice suck it up" or "It's not your child anymore it's theirs, you gave it away / you couldn't hack it / you ducked your responsibility" or "Well then maybe you shouldn't have chosen adoption."

angry


Quoting GinaPocan:

My question though is this---- "Who gives a rats ass about the birth mother????" 

We're treated by society like zoo animals during breeding season. 

For the most part, adoption is to satisfy a personal void an adoptive parent seems to need. The birth mother is'nt even a forethought. Just only that she is eating right and seeing a doctor though out the pregnancy, and that's exactly what  zoo keepers do when they mate a gorilla or an elephant. When the animal mother has their young they already have decided where the baby is going to go after it is weened. Chances are they don't even study the separation issues in the animal kingdom either. Mothers are disregarded as incubators. Nothing more. Not even human, sadly. After they take her baby, she no longer exists. In fact they avoid her at all costs.

My God, there are babies all over the world they could go after who need homes. Kids locked up in orphaniges in Romainia, China, Europian Countries, and in South America, where some places don't have orphaniges, and when little ones are found wandering the streets cause they have no parents are shot and killed on site like a wayward dog.

In stead they have to come after someone and turn their lives upside down, and not care what the repercussions are for the mother.

It's disgusting.

Do I have some ager with this? yes I do.


GinaPocan
by Member on Jan. 11, 2012 at 1:35 PM
1 mom liked this


Quoting susie703:

Yup.  I get it Gina.  It's infuriating.  Even in "successful" open adoptions the basic loss to mother and child are often negated.  For if the mother and child were truly honored, everything possible would be done to keep the family together, not tear it apart.  If a mother is "choosing" adoption because of some temporary situation, how can anyone feel ok taking that child to raise, even if they do keep promises of an open adoption?  How many times lately have we seen where the natural mom can't express her TRUE feelings of loss and grief because it upsets the adoptive parents?  I know of a few cases where the adoptive family has closed the adoption because they think the mother "isn't handling things well".  I know several moms here on CM who can't tell the truth of their loss and grief without amoms here taking that moms experience onto their own adoptive family, keeping the mother of their children distanced from their natural moms "just in case" she feels as the moms here do.  So sad.  So very, very sad.  Very recently here a natural mom who helps counsel pregnant women in unexpected pregnancies to make a FULLY informed choice for/against adoption has become villified for what she is doing.  She has been told that she is "bullying and coercing" these moms to parent when all she is doing is making sure that they know how adoption really effects them and their child. 

I'm ranting again....

Nothing wrong with ranting when its for a good reason, and this is a good reason. It's just too bad birthmoms couldn't unionize in some sort of way. This has got to be the most neglected group of people I know of. They are censored beyond belief. Lets not get into the liberties they loose in this process. They're dignity is ripped apart like they're less the human. Even shunned by OTHER women which really makes me sick. A street corner hooker gets more respect. Birthmothers are just a figment, not to be heard or seen by no one.

Its pethedic.

meme0907
by New Member on Jan. 12, 2012 at 10:12 AM

OMG...WOW! i never knew or heard of these stats....sad to say i fall into these  categories...been since '92 & '93 & i still suffer w/ mixed emotions....

GinaPocan
by Member on Jan. 12, 2012 at 11:01 AM


Quoting meme0907:

OMG...WOW! i never knew or heard of these stats....sad to say i fall into these  categories...been since '92 & '93 & i still suffer w/ mixed emotions....

You never heard of these stats because society sweeps us under the rug. We don't matter. You will always have those mixed emotions. They won't go away. You will in time learn to master the Pretending not to feel game. 

Evertime I hear my daughters name even if it belongs to another girl, a rush of feelings and mental pictures flood my mind, and the whole in my heart is tender.

I hate so much to admit, and ashamed to claim, that deep down I have an element of hatered for my sister, but at the same time pity. The pity comes from the reasons she took my daughter. I know why she did it. It wasn't to save me from grief, although this is what she claims. I honestly don't think she even knows why she did it. I was able to figure it out by putting the peices of several lives together, and knowing as much about psychology as I do, I was able to pin point how this all happened. But it took years of theorey. I only know so much about psychology do to my constant seach for answers and being active in therapy for many many years. 

When I seen those stats I believe Susie posted some time ago, it hit me that this has to be the root of my issues all along. I never looked at it, because I had nothing to go by. I never even knew anyone studied it.

My sister did this twice. First me, then her own daughter. I am trying to get my Niece in here. I think she needs to meet people like us, though her situation is a littel different, but the bottom line is she lost a daughter to my sisters power trips. 


Vikki77
by Silver Member on Jan. 12, 2012 at 7:50 PM

Sorry Gina. :( I'm just wondering, since it is your sister that did this, do you get to see your daughter? Does your niece get to see her baby? And do they know who their natural mothers are? You don't have to answer if you don't want to. I don't want to make you uncomfortable.

Quoting GinaPocan:


Quoting meme0907:

OMG...WOW! i never knew or heard of these stats....sad to say i fall into these  categories...been since '92 & '93 & i still suffer w/ mixed emotions....

You never heard of these stats because society sweeps us under the rug. We don't matter. You will always have those mixed emotions. They won't go away. You will in time learn to master the Pretending not to feel game. 

Evertime I hear my daughters name even if it belongs to another girl, a rush of feelings and mental pictures flood my mind, and the whole in my heart is tender.

I hate so much to admit, and ashamed to claim, that deep down I have an element of hatered for my sister, but at the same time pity. The pity comes from the reasons she took my daughter. I know why she did it. It wasn't to save me from grief, although this is what she claims. I honestly don't think she even knows why she did it. I was able to figure it out by putting the peices of several lives together, and knowing as much about psychology as I do, I was able to pin point how this all happened. But it took years of theorey. I only know so much about psychology do to my constant seach for answers and being active in therapy for many many years. 

When I seen those stats I believe Susie posted some time ago, it hit me that this has to be the root of my issues all along. I never looked at it, because I had nothing to go by. I never even knew anyone studied it.

My sister did this twice. First me, then her own daughter. I am trying to get my Niece in here. I think she needs to meet people like us, though her situation is a littel different, but the bottom line is she lost a daughter to my sisters power trips. 



GinaPocan
by Member on Jan. 12, 2012 at 8:02 PM


Quoting Vikki77:

Sorry Gina. :( I'm just wondering, since it is your sister that did this, do you get to see your daughter? Does your niece get to see her baby? And do they know who their natural mothers are? You don't have to answer if you don't want to. I don't want to make you uncomfortable.

Quoting GinaPocan:


Quoting meme0907:

OMG...WOW! i never knew or heard of these stats....sad to say i fall into these  categories...been since '92 & '93 & i still suffer w/ mixed emotions....

You never heard of these stats because society sweeps us under the rug. We don't matter. You will always have those mixed emotions. They won't go away. You will in time learn to master the Pretending not to feel game. 

Evertime I hear my daughters name even if it belongs to another girl, a rush of feelings and mental pictures flood my mind, and the whole in my heart is tender.

I hate so much to admit, and ashamed to claim, that deep down I have an element of hatered for my sister, but at the same time pity. The pity comes from the reasons she took my daughter. I know why she did it. It wasn't to save me from grief, although this is what she claims. I honestly don't think she even knows why she did it. I was able to figure it out by putting the peices of several lives together, and knowing as much about psychology as I do, I was able to pin point how this all happened. But it took years of theorey. I only know so much about psychology do to my constant seach for answers and being active in therapy for many many years. 

When I seen those stats I believe Susie posted some time ago, it hit me that this has to be the root of my issues all along. I never looked at it, because I had nothing to go by. I never even knew anyone studied it.

My sister did this twice. First me, then her own daughter. I am trying to get my Niece in here. I think she needs to meet people like us, though her situation is a littel different, but the bottom line is she lost a daughter to my sisters power trips. 



Both my niece and I's daughters are grown today. My daughter is 29, her's is now 23 I believe. She's in College. My daughter is a mamma for the second time.

Niether of us got to have liberal visits, and yes they both knew who we are, they just were fed bad information and have formed negitive images about the both of us. Neither girls seeks us out. My daughter chooses to believe what others tell her. Her daughter just has a sucky additude. My niece raised her daughter up until she was about 9. I never got to even hold mine. My nieces is very complicated. She was raped by the father of her daughter, and one day he chose to go after his daughter obviously because he didn't care to be paying child support anymore, so because my niece wouldn't surrender her daughter to my sister, she went against her and helped the father gain custody.

Vikki77
by Silver Member on Jan. 12, 2012 at 8:11 PM

I am so sorry to hear that. My oldest son is being fed bad information about me right now. Luckily, he isn't listening. I can't imagine what you are going through to have your own sister do this to you. Hugs.

Quoting GinaPocan:


Quoting Vikki77:

Sorry Gina. :( I'm just wondering, since it is your sister that did this, do you get to see your daughter? Does your niece get to see her baby? And do they know who their natural mothers are? You don't have to answer if you don't want to. I don't want to make you uncomfortable.

Quoting GinaPocan:


Quoting meme0907:

OMG...WOW! i never knew or heard of these stats....sad to say i fall into these  categories...been since '92 & '93 & i still suffer w/ mixed emotions....

You never heard of these stats because society sweeps us under the rug. We don't matter. You will always have those mixed emotions. They won't go away. You will in time learn to master the Pretending not to feel game. 

Evertime I hear my daughters name even if it belongs to another girl, a rush of feelings and mental pictures flood my mind, and the whole in my heart is tender.

I hate so much to admit, and ashamed to claim, that deep down I have an element of hatered for my sister, but at the same time pity. The pity comes from the reasons she took my daughter. I know why she did it. It wasn't to save me from grief, although this is what she claims. I honestly don't think she even knows why she did it. I was able to figure it out by putting the peices of several lives together, and knowing as much about psychology as I do, I was able to pin point how this all happened. But it took years of theorey. I only know so much about psychology do to my constant seach for answers and being active in therapy for many many years. 

When I seen those stats I believe Susie posted some time ago, it hit me that this has to be the root of my issues all along. I never looked at it, because I had nothing to go by. I never even knew anyone studied it.

My sister did this twice. First me, then her own daughter. I am trying to get my Niece in here. I think she needs to meet people like us, though her situation is a littel different, but the bottom line is she lost a daughter to my sisters power trips. 



Both my niece and I's daughters are grown today. My daughter is 29, her's is now 23 I believe. She's in College. My daughter is a mamma for the second time.

Niether of us got to have liberal visits, and yes they both knew who we are, they just were fed bad information and have formed negitive images about the both of us. Neither girls seeks us out. My daughter chooses to believe what others tell her. Her daughter just has a sucky additude. My niece raised her daughter up until she was about 9. I never got to even hold mine. My nieces is very complicated. She was raped by the father of her daughter, and one day he chose to go after his daughter obviously because he didn't care to be paying child support anymore, so because my niece wouldn't surrender her daughter to my sister, she went against her and helped the father gain custody.


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