Children's Adjustment to Adoption: Developmental and Clinical Issues

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David M. Brodzinsky, Daniel W. Smith & Anne B. Brodzinsky

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  • Developmental Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry Series

    Series Editor: Alan E. Kazdin, Yale University

    Recent volumes in this series …

    • LIFE EVENTS AS STRESSORS IN CHILDHOOD AND ADOLESCENCE

      by James H. Johnson

    • CONDUCT DISORDERS IN CHILDHOOD AND ADOLESCENCE SECOND EDITION

      by Alan E. Kazdin

    • CHILD ABUSE

      by David A. Wolfe

    • PREVENTING MALADJUSTMENT FROM INFANCY THROUGH ADOLESCENCE

      by Annette U. Rickel and LaRue Allen

    • TEMPERAMENT AND CHILD PSYCHOPATHOLOGY

      by William T. Garrison and Felton J. Earls

    • EMPIRICALLY BASED ASSESSMENT OF CHILD AND ADOLESCENT PSYCHOPATHOLOGY SECOND EDITION

      by Thomas M. Achenbach and Stephanie H. McConaughy

    • MARRIAGE, DIVORCE, AND CHILDREN's ADJUSTMENT

      by Robert E. Emery

    • AUTISM

      by Laura Schreibman

    • DELINQUENCY IN ADOLESCENCE

      by Scott W. Henggeler

    • CHRONIC ILLNESS DURING CHILDHOOD AND ADOLESCENCE

      by William T. Garrison and Susan McQuiston

    • ANXIETY DISORDERS IN CHILDREN

      by Rachel G. Klein and Cynthia G. Last

    • CHILDREN OF BATTERED WOMEN

      by Peter G. Jaffe, David A. Wolfe, and Susan Kaye Wilson

    • SUBSTANCE ABUSE IN CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

      by Steven P. Schinke, Gilbert J. Botvin, and Mario A. Orlandi

    • CHILD PSYCHIATRIC EPIDEMIOLOGY

      by Frank C. Verhulst and Hans M. Koot

    • EATING AND GROWTH DISORDERS IN INFANTS AND CHILDREN

      by Joseph L. Woolston

    • NEUROLOGICAL BASIS OF CHILDHOOD PSYCHOPATHOLOGY

      by George W. Hynd and Stephen R. Hooper

    • ADOLESCENT SEXUAL BEHAVIOR AND CHILDBEARING

      by Laurie Schwab Zabin and Sarah C. Hayward

    • EFFECTS OF PSYCHOTHERAPY WITH CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

      by John R. Weisz and Bahr Weiss

    • BEHAVIOR AND DEVELOPMENT IN FRAGILE X SYNDROME

      by Elisabeth M. Dykens, Robert M. Hodapp, and James F. Leckman

    • ATTENTION DEFICITS AND HYPERACTIVITY IN CHILDREN

      by Stephen P. Hinshaw

    • LEARNING DISABILITIES

      by Byron P. Rourke and Jerel E. Del Dotto

    • PEDIATRIC TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY

      by Jeffrey H. Snow and Stephen R. Hooper

    • FAMILIES, CHILDREN, AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF DYSFUNCTION

      by Mark R. Dadds

    • ADOLESCENTS AND THE MEDIA

      by Victor C. Strasburger

    • SCHOOL-BASED PREVENTION PROGRAMS FOR CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

      by Joseph A. Durlak

    • CHILDHOOD OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER

      by Greta Francis and Rod A. Gragg

    • TREATING CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS IN RESIDENTIAL AND INPATIENT SETTINGS

      by Robert D. Lyman and Nancy R. Campbell

    • THE IMPACT OF FAMILY VIOLENCE ON CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

      by Javad H. Kashani and Wesley D. Allan

    • CHILDREN's ADJUSTMENT TO ADOPTION

      by David M. Brodzinsky, Daniel W. Smith, and Anne B. Brodzinsky

    • MOTOR COORDINATION DISORDERS IN CHILDREN

      by David A. Sugden and Helen Wright

    Copyright

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    Introduction to the Series

    Interest in child development and adjustment is by no means new. Yet, only recently has the study of children benefited from advances in both clinical and scientific research. Advances in the social and biological sciences, the emergence of disciplines and subdisciplines that focus exclusively on childhood and adolescence, and greater appreciation of the impact of such influences as the family, peers, and school have helped accelerate research on developmental psychopathology. Apart from interest in the study of child development and adjustment for its own sake, the need to address clinical problems of adulthood naturally draws one to investigate precursors in childhood and adolescence.

    Within a relatively brief period, the study of psychopathology among children and adolescents has proliferated considerably. Several different professional journals, annual book series, and handbooks devoted entirely to the study of children and adolescents and their adjustment document the proliferation of work in the field. Nevertheless, there is a paucity of resource material that presents information in an authoritative, systematic, and disseminable fashion. There is a need within the field to convey the latest developments and to represent different disciplines, approaches, and conceptual views to the topics of childhood and adolescent adjustment and maladjustment.

    The Sage series Developmental Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry is designed to serve uniquely several needs of the field. The Series encompasses individual monographs prepared by experts in the fields of clinical child psychology, child psychiatry, child development, and related disciplines. The primary focus is on developmental psychopathology, which refers broadly here to the diagnosis, assessment, treatment, and prevention of problems that arise in the period from infancy through adolescence. A working assumption of the Series is that understanding, identifying, and treating problems of youth must draw on multiple disciplines and diverse views within a given discipline.

    The task for individual contributors is to present the latest theory and research on various topics, including specific types of dysfunction, diagnostic and treatment approaches, and special problem areas that affect adjustment. Core topics within clinical work are addressed by the Series. Authors are asked to bridge potential theory, research, and clinical practice, and to outline the current status and future directions. The goals of the Series and the tasks presented to individual contributors are demanding. We have been extremely fortunate in recruiting leaders in the fields, who have been able to translate their recognized scholarship and expertise into highly readable works on contemporary topics.

    In this book, David M. Brodzinsky, Daniel W. Smith, and Anne B. Brodzinsky examine Children's Adjustment to Adoption: Developmental and Clinical Issues. The authors place adoption in historical context to address issues that affect both the process and outcome of adoption for children and their parents. Theoretical perspectives on the adoption process, along with supportive research, are carefully delineated. Extensive coverage is given to the research on both the adjustment of children and parents to adoption itself and the psychological development, including adjustment and maladjustment, over the course of childhood and adolescence. Children whose adoption emerges from such circumstances as child abuse, parental drug abuse, and parent HIV are also discussed. Adoption across racial and cultural lines and the circumstances such adoptions raise are also examined. The book is excellent in its coverage of theory and research on children and families and the contextual issues pertinent to the adoption process. Clinical vignettes punctuate key points. Assessment and intervention with children and families are also covered. The authors have made major research contributions over the years in understanding the effects of adoption. This book stands as yet another significant contribution.

    Alan E.Kazdin Ph.D.

    Preface

    Every book has a history. Ours began with a question posed by one of us (A. B.) to another (D. B.) some 20 years ago: “What does a young child understand about being adopted, and how does that understanding change over time?” This simple question became a catalyst for an initial research project that in turn led to a series of studies altering the course of our careers. Since the late 1970s, we have been exploring the psychology of adoption, both from research and clinical perspectives. Although most of our work has focused on the development and adjustment of adopted children, we have also studied and worked clinically with adult adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents. Overall, we have nearly 50 years of combined experience in this area.

    As psychologists, we have often experienced a certain isolation from our colleagues in our study of adoption. In fact, with the exception of behavior geneticists, who are interested in adoptive families primarily in relation to questions concerning the heritability of behavior and psychological traits, only a handful of psychologists in this country are actively pursuing programmatic research on developmental and clinical issues in adoption. Perhaps this is because adoptees represent such a small percentage of the population of children. Perhaps it is because adoption is too closely tied to the field of social work and social service practice. Maybe it is because adoption is seen as a solution to a set of problems and not a potential problem itself. Whatever the reason, relatively few research or clinical articles on adoption appear in psychological journals each year, and until recently, issues related to adoptive family life were seldom represented in edited volumes or textbooks on the psychology of the family.

    One of the primary reasons we decided to write this book was to stimulate interest among developmental and clinical psychologists with regard to the study of adoption. Although a considerable amount of interesting and very relevant research has been generated by investigators in other disciplines, especially in the fields of social welfare and psychiatry, it is our belief that the unique perspectives and methodologies associated with psychological research have much to contribute to efforts at understanding patterns of adjustment in adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents. Given that adoption is now seen as influencing members of the adoption triad across the entire course of their lives, it seems obvious that developmental psychologists, in particular, would have much to offer to the study and understanding of adoption. Unfortunately, developmentalists have yet to discover this fact. We hope that by raising interesting theoretical, empirical, and clinical questions in this book and by bringing together what is currently known about developmental and adjustment issues in adoption, we will spark greater curiosity among our research and clinical colleagues.

    Finally, over the course of our work in this field we have had the support of a number of organizations that we would like to acknowledge. First, we wish to express our appreciation to the National Institute of Mental Health, the Charles and Joanna Busch Memorial Fund of Rutgers University, the Research Council of Rutgers University, and the Division of Youth and Family Services of New Jersey for funding our research and clinical projects. We also wish to thank the many adoption agencies, adoptive parent support groups, and adoption attorneys around the country that have worked with us in the course of research. Finally, we are most appreciative of the time given to us by the thousands of adopted children, adult adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents whom we have met and worked with over the years. It is through their generosity in sharing with us their own unique adoption experiences that we have gained our insight into the psychology of adoption.

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    Author Index

    About the Authors

    David M. Brodzinsky is Associate Professor of Developmental and Clinical Psychology at Rutgers University, where he also serves as Director of the Foster Care Counseling Project. Since receiving his doctorate in Developmental Psychology from the State University of New York at Buffalo, he has published widely in areas of child development and clinical psychology, with particular emphasis in the past 18 years on the adjustment of adopted children and their families. He has a private practice in South Orange, New Jersey, where he works primarily with members of the adoption triangle. He also is frequently called upon to serve as a forensic psychologist and expert witness in family law cases involving contested adoptions, child custody, and child abuse.

    Dr. Brodzinsky has served as a consultant to numerous public and private adoption agencies and has conducted workshops on psychological issues in adoption and foster care for mental health and child welfare professionals throughout the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. He also currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in New York City. His publications include The Psychology of Adoption (1990), edited with M. Schechter; Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self (1992), with M. Schechter and R. Henig; and Lifespan Human Development (1993), with A. Gormly.

    Daniel W. Smith is Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Arkansas. His current research and clinical interests focus on the assessment and treatment of child sexual abuse victims, as well as children's adaptation to adoption. He earned his doctorate in clinical psychology at Rutgers University, where he specialized in the adjustment of adopted and foster children. His experiences in working with the foster care system sparked his interest in the effects of child maltreatment, which he pursued during his internship and NIMH-funded post-doctoral training at the Medical University of South Carolina's National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center. He serves on the Editorial Board of Child Maltreatment, and is a frequent journal reviewer in the area of traumatic stress. He also co-founded the Children's Safety Center, the first multi-disciplinary child advocacy center in Northwest Arkansas.

    Anne B. Brodzinsky is on the faculty of the Training Institute in Infant Mental Health in Newark, New Jersey and is a psychoanalytic candidate in the Child and Adolescent Program at the National Institute for the Psychotherapies in New York City. She has been involved in research and clinical work in adoption and foster care for the past 18 years. She has published widely on issues related to children's understanding of and adjustment to adoption, and recently has been pursuing research on the adjustment of birthmothers. She received her doctorate in counseling psychology from New York University.

    Dr. Brodzinsky has served as a consultant to numerous public and private adoption agencies and has conducted workshops on the psychology of adoption for mental health and child welfare professionals, as well as for adoptive parents, throughout the United States and Great Britain. She has a private practice in South Orange, New Jersey, which is focused on members of the adoption triangle and is the author of The Mulberry Bird (1996), a well-known children's book on adoption.


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