International adoptees encounter stress both prenatally and postnatally (see table below). Most are products of unwanted pregnancies. After birth, many suffer from abandonment, institutionalization, malnutrition, recurrent illnesses, environmental deprivation, and/or emotional neglect. Some are physically or sexually abused, or witness distressing events. These stressful experiences in early life may permanently alter brain physiology and lead to long-lasting physiological, psychological, and behavioral changes. Early stress may have life-long adverse effects on growth, development, health, behavior, learning, and memory. This section discusses how stress influences these areas, clinically and neurobiologically.
Table - Sources of stress for institutionalized children
Prenatal exposure to maternal depression
Removal from familiar peer groups and caregivers