In an adolescent psychology textbook: an adoption lie.

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I know to expect falsehoods coming from adoption agency websites. After all, they’re in the business to make money. If they told the truth to young expectant mothers, if they let them make informed decisions while NOT under the influence of pregnancy and post-partum hormonal surges and neurological changes, then likely very few would surrender their babies (e.g, South Australia: 2003 population = 1,527,000. voluntary surrenders = 3).

But I do not expect falsehoods to come from university text books.

I was in the local campus bookstore today, looking for a certain statistics text, when the title “Adolescence” caught my eye. Having taken the psychology of adolescence course there a few years back, out of curiosity I picked it up to take a look at the new text for that course. It didn’t take long to notice a chapter on teen pregnancy, which I skimmed. Under adoption, it was firmly stated that adolescents who surrender their babies for adoption suffer no negative consequences. Not “few,” not “rare,” not “temporary.” And definitely not telling the truth that study after study has shown that the emotional and psychological consequences can be both devastating and life-long.

“A grief reaction unique to the relinquishing mother was identified. Although this reaction consists of features characteristic of the normal grief reaction, these features persist and often lead to chronic, unresolved grief. CONCLUSIONS: The relinquishing mother is at risk for long-term physical, psychologic, and social repercussions. Although interventions have been proposed, little is known about their effectiveness in preventing or alleviating these repercussions.” – Askren & Bloom, Journal of Obstetric, Gynecological and Neonatal Nursing, 1999 Jul-Aug. p.395.

To support his claim that mothers walk away unscathed, the author cites a handful of pro-adoption authors whose studies are easily picked apart and whose results are in the minority. This handful of authors surveyed mothers who had surrendered only within the past 5 years, and these first five years are when many mothers are still in the numbness and shock of grief and trauma. In her Ph.D., dissertation, Weinreb (1991) states that it takes at LEAST five years for the loss to be fully realized. In order to survive the extreme pain, loss, and trauma we often resort to denial, dissociation, avoidance, and repression of memories.

To give him the benefit of the doubt, I am certain that the author did not intentionally present a misleading claim. It is likely that he did so unintentionally, having only obtained “one side of the story’ and likely from some of those same adoption agencies and/or their staff.

But it is still depressing to think that undergraduate university students in colleges and universities across North America are reading this stuff as gospel truth.


9 thoughts on “In an adolescent psychology textbook: an adoption lie.

    paragraphein said:
    June 26, 2009 at 3:02 am

    Oh plenty of mental health and psychology professionals get ALL kinds of things wrong. Not just adoption. Sadly.

    unicorn said:
    June 26, 2009 at 11:06 am

    You should write to the author and tell him how wrong he is.

    It reminds me of a special moment in my life when I was taking science at a Canadian university a long time ago.

    I found some incorrect information about DNA in my textbook. The textbook said something along the lines that DNA was not variable and that it could not be used for things like finding individuals.

    (it’s true – they really believed that back in the 1970’s – it was the biology equivalent of believing the earth was flat)

    I showed it to my professor. He said to prove to him that it was wrong – so I did. I found some sound research from another university in England that proved just how wrong this textbook was. He was shocked.

    The following day at his lecture, my professor told everyone to open their textbooks to the page where I had discovered the error.
    We did.

    He solemnly told everyone to take out their pens.
    We did.

    He then told everyone to draw a huge “X” through the page and told our class that information was wrong on that page.

    Some people gasped at this – they couldn’t believe it. It was amazing.

    My professor then went on to tell the class about the exciting new research from England and how it would change the world.

    It was one of the best lectures I had ever attended.

    Lorraine Dusky said:
    June 26, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Yikes! What do we have to do to get out the word that giving up a child to adoption is a life-changing event, and I don’t mean for the better! We blog, we write books, we lobby to change the records and some asshole write that?

    Thank you, Cedar Trees, for bringing this to light.

    Cedar said:
    June 27, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    What can we do to get the word out? Organize, educate, speak out, and lobby. We need articles published in peer-reviewed journals, we need to publish more books that are not just memoirs (i.e. individual self-reported case studies), and we need credible Ph.D.-level psychologists behind us to support us. That is what worked in Australia where Drs. Condon, Rickarby, and Winkler spoke up for us. Individual bloggers and “arm-chair psychologists” cannot accomplish anything.

    unicorn said:
    June 28, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    You would be surprised how much can be accomplished at the computer.

    Many people including myself are pushing for oversight of the CAS in Ontario by the Ombudsman. A lot of the campaigning has been done online.

    There is now a bill before the Ontario Legislature and it has already passed first reading.

    Don’t underestimate people power or how much can be accomplished by those without the Phd’s.

    If every mother from every mother’s group wrote to that man and told him his information was wrong, he would soon change his tune – especially if his inbox became extremely cluttered by distressed and upset mothers who clearly are affected. I would highly recommend doing that to make him see how ridiculous his statement is.

    Even if only one mother wrote to him, it would invalidate his statement.

    Valerie said:
    July 4, 2009 at 6:52 am

    Who is the author of this book? We will write to him. As an aside…the CAS is going to have to answer to someone soon…

    maybe said:
    July 9, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    I’m wondering if you think there is any difference in recent adoptions (with usually some degree of openness) in contrast to the old school closed adoptions that most of us here experienced.

    I ask this question becuse I was reading posts on Adoption Voices, which consists of groups organized by APs, natural mothers, etc. The are a couple of birthmothers groups (their terminology, not mine) that seem to spout nothing but happiness about adoption. Most of these women appear to be in some form of open adoption that were made fairly recently (seems none of the adoptees have yet to reach their teen years, most appear to be under the age of 10).

    They repeat the usual “adoption is loving and selfless” with such force that it seems they have fully internalized these messages. Can they really be that happy about losing their child, no matter how much opennes they have?

    One mother stated that “I feel appreciated when others tell me it was great what I did.” Funny, I PHYSICALLY feel like I am being stabbed in the heart when anyone says such a thing to me regarding adoption.

    What’s your take on this?

    unicorn said:
    July 9, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    I do think that mothers from closed adoptions really do suffer from the complete cut-off from their children. We were not allowed to know what they were doing or how they were. We were not allowed to be part of their lives.

    It’s the not knowing that I found really hard to cope with.

    I guess open adoptions do give a bit of comfort in that you do have updates and in some cases actual contact which must make a huge difference.

    I would have given anything to be part of my son’s childhood – I feel robbed and cheated that I wasn’t.

    Cedar said:
    July 11, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    Valerie, I will note down the bibliographic reference information for that book the next time I go to the bookstore. I would love to photocopy that page, and post a JPEG of it here on the blog, but I doubt that the store will let me. 😉

    Indeed, we should write to this person.

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