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Mental Disorder Risk Is High For Adoptees

Armen Hareyan's picture

Adopted children are more likely to suffer from mental disorders than those not adopted.

A study by University of Minnesota researchers examined 540 not adopted adolescents and 692 adopted adolescents. 514 of them foreign and 178 were domestic adoptions. All of study participants were physically and psychologically healthy in their younger ages.

Researchers performed psychiatric tests for adolescents at their ages from 11 to 21. They also questioned parents and teachers about children's behavior. The results showed that adopted adults have twice as higher rates of mental disorders.

The most common disorders were found to be attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and oppositional defiant disorder. ADHD rate among adoptees is from 14 to 15%, compared to 7% among non-adoptees. Oppositional defiant disorder is 19% in adoptees and 10% in non-adoptees.

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ADHD in children is associated with difficulties in concentrating and controlling impulsive behavior. Oppositional defiant disorder leads to disobedient and hostile behaviors directed toward authority adults.

The research also found that adoptees from other countries than US have higher rates of mental disorder than those adopted from US. This is explained with ethnical discrimination adolescents from other countries can experience in US. The teachers mentioned that foreign adoptees are the most at risk for suffering from psychiatric distress and anxiety.

The study doesn't give exact reasons of why adoptees suffer more from mental conditions, but there is a hypothesis that they might have mentally or physically ill birth parents. They may also have been exposed to unhealthy condition before birth and during the period after birth and before being adopted. Most environmental and psychological factors before adoption are unknown. Probably this is the reason why adoptees have more mental problems later in life.

Besides, researchers also suggest that most of mental disorders occur in adults aged from 11 to 21 exactly. These two factors - being an adopted child and being at the risky age - increase ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder rates among adopted adolescents.

The research also found that the amount of money parents spend on adopted children is from 10 to 20 times more than the money spent on biological children. The study suggests that the reason for this is that parents of adopted children are more educated and in better financial state, because before adopting a child they need to qualify as good parents. The more educated parents are, than more careful they are about their children's physical and psychological health.

The study doesn't mean that adopting a child is stressful. It just urges the need for parents with adopted children to be more careful about behavioral changes of their kids, especially adolescents, and rely on mental health professionals' experience.