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Adopted Adults Who Search for Their Birthparents

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Why Adoption?


Researchers Kowal and Schilling studied the information adopted individuals said they were looking for when they searched. Their findings: 75 percent of the adopted adults studied wanted medical history; 71 percent wanted information on the personalities of their biological parents; 68 percent wanted a physical description of their biological parents; 66 percent wanted the names of their birthparents.

More than 50 percent also sought the following information: ethnic background; their own early medical history; the hobbies of their birthparents; the reasons why their adoption occurred; the marital status of their birthparents; the educational level of birthparents; and the birthparents' occupations. (Interestingly, whenever possible, this type of information is provided to most adoptive parents now, so they can give it to their children.)

Many adopted adults report that they want to know why they were adopted. No matter how carefully told and truthful the adoption story was, some adopted people feel that they need to hear it from the person they were born to: Why did she choose adoption?

Many older adopted adults learn that the decision was not a choice but more of a societal mandate. Women in the 1950s through the 1970s (and earlier) were considered to be bad if they parented a child as unwed mothers. So adoption was considered the right thing to do. Of course, for many women it was the right thing to do, while others had doubts and regrets.

Search for Siblings

Some adopted adults I've talked to say they really want to meet their siblings—if they have any. Especially if they are only children, they wonder whether there are any brothers or sisters out there. Their sibs are often a lot closer to them in age than their birthparents, so they may share more things in common than they do with the birthparent.

Familybuilding Tips

I could find no studies on the relationships of adopted adults with their biological siblings. Anecdotally, however, it does appear that biological siblings are generally accepting of the adopted adult.

Sometimes, however, siblings who were parented by the birthmother are in a lower socioeconomic strata than the adoptee. In that case, they may be jealous of the advantages that the adopted person has obtained—an affluent life, a college education, a good job, and so forth.

Adoptive Parents Are Gone

Adopted adults who have never done anything about searching may find themselves interested when an adoptive parent dies. This close link is gone, and they might want to see whether they can find the woman who created them and perhaps forge a relationship with her. In other cases, the adopted person may have been interested in searching for a long time but was afraid the adoptive parents would be upset or offended. (Sometimes they are right about this.) So the adopted person didn't search until the adoptive parents died.

Finally, some adopted adults seek out their birthmother simply to thank her for having chosen adoption. They may worry that she feels guilty about it.

Unrealistic Expectations

Other, more negative motivations apparently lead a few adopted adults to search.

Some adopted adults believe that their personal problems stem primarily (or solely) from adoption. This viewpoint is more often heard from adopted adults who are estranged from their adoptive families, but it may still occur even if the adopted person and adoptive parents are on good terms. Here's how blaming adoption for everything can work: The person has a problem, maybe a lot of problems. She thinks her problems all relate to adoption in some way. (If she hadn't been adopted, she would have gone to a different school, had a different job, married a different person, and so on.)

Based on this reasoning, the only corrective action the adopted person can think of is to seek out her birthmother and create a strong relationship with her. The problem with this answer is that no birthmother, no matter how loving and caring, can erase all life's problems. The adopted person is bound to be disappointed—unless she adjusts her thinking to conform more to reality. An adopted adult who feels unwhole will not resolve an identity crisis through meeting a birthparent, even if this may seem true at the euphoric first few meetings.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Adoption © 2004 by Christine Adamec. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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