Adoption, in law, is the act of taking a child of other parents into one’s family as a son or daughter. Adoption is a legal process, and permission of a court is necessary. Consent of the natural parents or the child’s legal guardian is required, and if the child is of a certain age his or her consent also is required. The adopted child acquires the same rights and duties as children born in the family.
Adoption was common in ancient Rome but was not recognized in English common law. Massachusetts passed the first adoption law in the United States in 1851.
Moreover, pregnant teenagers who feel they cannot provide a baby with a good quality of life may choose to offer their babies for adoption. Adoption is a legal process through which adults are given permanent guardianship of a child who is not biologically theirs. There are long waiting lists of people who want to adopt a child.
This paper defines what adoption is and how does adoption works in the United States and in South America.
A. Adoption Studies
Adoption studies offer additional clues to the relative contributions of nature and nurture. For any given trait, we can ask whether adopted children are more like their adoptive parents, who contribute a home environment, or their biological parents, who contributed their genes. The stunning finding from studying hundreds of adoptive families in Minnesota, Texas, and Colorado is that people who grow up together do not much resemble one another in personality, whether biologically related or not (Rowe, 2000). Moreover, the personalities of parents have been astonishingly unrelated to the personalities of their children. Sandra Scarr and her colleagues (1999) summarized the findings vividly:
“It would have to be concluded that upper-middle-class brothers who attended the same school and whose parents took them to the same plays, sporting events, music lessons, and therapists and used similar child-rearing practices on them would be found to be only slightly more similar to each other in personality measures than to working-class or farm boys, whose lives would be totally different.”
What we have here is developmental psychology’s newest and one of its biggest puzzles: Why are children in the same family so different? Is it because even though siblings share half of their genes, each sibling has a very different combination of genes? Is it because each sibling experiences a different environment (differing peer influences, birth orders, and life events)?
Twin and adoption studies reveal that genetic influences account for nearly 50 percent of person-to-person differences in traits such as outgoingness and emotional instability. What accounts for the other 50 percent? Because siblings are not appreciably influenced by their shared home environment (shocking as that may sound), researchers assume they are influenced by their nonshared experiences—their own unique experiences. Apparently what affect each child are not much the parents per se as how the child interacts with and experiences them, plus other peer and cultural influences. The same parental influence may affect an easygoing child one way, a reactive child another. Family environment can matter, even if siblings differ, notes Lois Hoffman (2001). The same fire that tempers steel melts butter.
Adoption studies show that, although the personalities of adopted children do not much resemble those of their adoptive parents, adoption has many effects (Brodzinsky & Schechter, 2000). First, the home environment influences adopted children’s values, beliefs, and social attitudes. Second, in adoptive homes, child neglect and abuse are rare. (Adoptive parents are carefully screened; natural parents are not). So it is not surprising that, despite somewhat greater risk of psychological disorder (Wierzbicki, 2003) most adopted children thrive. They score higher than their biological parents on intelligence tests, and many become happier and more stable people than they would have in a stressed or neglectful environment. Children need not resemble their adoptive parents to have benefited from adoption.
B. Types of Adoptions
There are different ways to place a baby for adoption. Some birth mothers choose a public agency that arranges closed adoptions. In a closed adoption, the agency finds the best possible home for the baby, and the mother does not know where her baby has been placed. She will have no future contact with the baby or its new parents. Many teenagers prefer this adoption method because their privacy is completely protected and their identity is kept confidential.
The mother also may consult her doctor, a lawyer, or a private agency to arrange an open adoption. In an open adoption, the birth mother has some say about where the baby will be placed. For example, she may want the child to be raised in a particular religion. In an open adoption, the adoptive parents often provide money for some or all of the mother’s medical care. After the baby is born, the new parents may write letters and send pictures to the mother to let her know how the baby is getting along. In a few cases, the mother may visit her child from time to time.
· Making the decision
If a pregnant teenager is thinking about adoption, she will have until the baby is born to make her final decision. Some groups operate homes where the mother can stay until her baby is born. These homes offer free medical care and counseling to allow the girl time to make her decision.
Placing a baby in an adoptive home is not easy, but for some teenagers it is the only positive solution. The child will be given opportunities throughout its life that an unmarried teenager may never be able to provide. The mother shouldn’t feel that she has abandoned the baby. Instead, she should realize that she has made a loving decision to provide for her child’s future in the best way she could.
Psychologists struggling to disentangle the effects of genes and environment have searched for information in studies of adopted children. Several researchers have asked whether adopted children, thanks to their shared environment, share similar aptitudes. During childhood, the intelligence test scores of adoptive siblings correlate modestly. But with age, the effect of common rearing wanes; by adulthood, the correlation is roughly zero.
Researchers have also asked whether adopted children have intelligence test scores more like those of their adoptive parents, from whom they receive their genes, or of their adoptive parents, who provide their home environment. Adopted children’s scores more closely resemble those of their biological parents than those of their adoptive parents. Moreover, the older the children are, the more they score like their biological parents. It matters whether one is adopted into an impoverished or an enriched environment. Yet being reared “together in the same adoptive home does not make you intellectually similar to your brothers and sisters.”
Rowe, D.C (2000). As the twig is bent? The myth of child-rearing influences on personality development. Journal of Counseling and Development, 68, 606-611.
Scarr, S., & Weinberg, R.A. (1999). IQ test performance of black children adopted by while families. American Psychologist, 41, 1140-1146.
Hoffman, L. (2001). Effects of maternal employment in the two-parent family. American Psychologist, 44, 283-292.
Brodzinsky, D.M. & Schechter, M.D. (2000). The psychology of adoption. New York: Oxford University press, 11.
Wierzbicki, M. (2003). Psychological adjustment of adoptees: A meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 22, 447-454.