Adoption usually brings a lifetime of happiness to adopted children and their families. Some adoptions, however, can cause families significant problems. A recent conference on adoption research and public policy examined both the strengths and the weaknesses of adoption and provided a look at how the process might be strengthened.
Adoption has long been a noble solution to a serious problem. Most adoptions, particularly those of infants, are quite successful. But behind the doors of some adoptive homes, things don't always go as smoothly as planned.
Sometimes the arrival of an adopted child causes friction and disruption in the household. Adopted children are more likely than their nonadopted siblings to suffer psychological, behavioral, and academic problems. As they get older, the development of ambivalent feelings about adoption may cause additional emotional strife.
Others pay an emotional price as well. Some children, usually older and with physical or emotional problems, are never adopted, instead spending childhood and adolescence moving from one foster home to another. And among the birth mothers of adopted children, a group that only recently has been studied, a significant number suffer emotional and sometimes even physical problems that can last throughout their lives.
"Adoption raises a whole new set of issues within families that don't exist in nonadoptive families," says Jeffrey Haugaard, an assistant professor of …