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Young children have little understanding of adoption, although most can parrot their adoption stories and readily declare that they are adopted. It is not until school age that most children realize that adoption started with a loss - the loss of their birth family. Ages 6-18 years are said to be the most difficult for adoptees. The complexities of understanding adoption and its meaning resonate deeply for many children in this age group. For some school-age children, adoption itself is a risk factor for low self-esteem, academic problems, rebellious behavior (aggression, lying, hyperactivity, oppositional behavior, stealing, running away).

The frequency of these behaviors may account for the overrepresentation of adopted school-age children who require mental health support services. However struggles with adoption issues at this age are normal and should be supported. Internationally adopted children face additional psychological tasks. For these children, the toll of adoption also includes the loss of language, culture and heritage. The psychological burden of adjustment to these losses has not yet been fully evaluated and, relatively few parents are equipped to help their kids face the depths of sadness they feel regarding their losses.


From THE HANDBOOK OF INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION MEDICINE by Laurie C. Miller. © 2004 by Oxford University Press, Inc. Used by Permission.


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