Post-adoption blues

Parents may suffer depression after adopting a child.


Sarah Elizabeth Richards
April 26, 2006 9:35AM (UTC)

This syndrome may finally have a name. The New York Times reports today about a fascinating phenomenon suffered by many new adoptive parents. After embracing the anticipation and joy of adopting a new child, many parents says they feel a puzzling depression, which is often compounded if they don't feel an immediate bond with their new child.

"For some, it is simply a low mood, for others a full-fledged plunge into despair. But most suffer secretly because of the shame and guilt of not being entirely happy over something they had chosen and, in many cases, worked so hard to get," explains writer Laurie Tarkan. It's also confusing, since unlike postpartum depression, so-called post-adoptive depression can't be explained by hormonal shifts, even though adoptive parents still deal with sleep deprivation and stress. But it's real; for example, a 1999 survey of parents in the Eastern European Adoption Coalition found that 77 percent who reported being depressed experienced symptoms lasting two months to more than a year. And 70 percent thought their depression hurt how they connected to their new children.

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According to Tarkan, no research has been done on the topic. Let's hope that changes soon, and that checking in on new parents becomes a standard part of the adoption process. Becoming a parent is a major life transition, whether it entails a biological or an adopted child. Identifying and recognizing the potential bumps can help new parents better prepare for the emotional challenges ahead.


Sarah Elizabeth Richards

Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist based in New York. She can be reached at sarah@saraherichards.com.

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