Adolescence--Chronic but Not Terminal: Keeping Lines of Communication Open
Adolescence is difficult for all children, regardless of how they joined their families. The circumstances surrounding adoption add another layer of adjustment to two tumultuous tasks: identity formation and separation from the family. In searching for an identity, most adolescents experiment with a variety of personas. They alternately shun and embrace family values, codes of conduct, career choices, and expectations of themselves. When children have more than one family (and multiple fantasy families) on which to base their self-concept, the struggle to form an identity becomes much more complicated. Further, children who have lost families already may find emancipation from their port in the storm, the adoptive family, extremely difficult.
Studies and statistics have "proven" both that adopted teens are well adjusted and that they have adjustment problems. Some studies report that adopted adolescents fare at least as well as, if not better than, their nonadopted counterparts. For example, 715 adoptive families with adolescents adopted as infants were studied in 1994 by Benson, Sharma, and Roehlkepartain to determine the level of success in key developmental tasks of adoption--formation of identity, attachment to family and others, quality of family life, and psychological well-being.
Adopted adolescents in this study were as likely as their nonadopted siblings to express high self-esteem and positive concepts of identity. A little more than half of the sample wanted to know more about their birth parents, and two-thirds of the sample expressed the desire to meet their birth parents. Infants placed before one month of age showed the