Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Comment on another comment

So as not to carry on another discussion in the comments section at Henry Street - I know Rachel doesn't really want to have more discussion on this...

The premise of the Primal Wound is, as I understand it, that separation from the birth mother is intrinsically traumatic, whatever age it happens at.

All the evidence from studies of child development is that it is not particularly traumatic for children to be separated from their main caregiver when this happens early enough - before they have time to form an attachment. Leaving unsubstantiated theory aside, attachment occurs at around 6-9 months of age. Before this age, babies view caregivers relatively equally - carers that are more sensitive to their needs are preferred, but babies do not seem to experience a feeling of loss when the caregivers leave, either temporarily or permanently, so long as another sensitive caregiver is present. This makes sense in evolutionary terms (according to attachment theorists) because even in relatively recent evolutionary history infants might well lose their mothers at or around birth. In most societies in the world, infants are cared for by many caregivers in the first year of life - in some an older child or grandmother is the main caregiver right from the start - and major psychological trauma isn't exactly prevalent everywhere that infants are cared for in this way.

Of course adoption can be handled badly, and can also occur after infants have had time to attach to their mothers or primary caregivers. But as many have commented (see emory2001's eloquent review on Amazon), things can turn out badly in birth families too. Adoption can be bad. It can lead to trauma. Overly high expectations, not explaining adoption, making children think they were not loved, having them live in fear of being given away again, negative portrayals of birth parents or lack of contact or information that the child is ready for - obviously these are all bad, and are likely to occur only when children are adopted - though very similar things occur following acrimonious divorces with sole custody by an aggrieved parent. Also bad is telling a child they are the ultimate in an amazing genetic line, that the first-born always has to be a doctor, that they need to carry on the family line. These are only going to occur in biologically related families.

I don't believe it's the trauma of separation at birth that causes problems in adoptive families. Adoption is a special situation, in that it is unusual (in many societies children are not raised by both their biological parents, but it is usually either a step-parent plus one biological parent, or a biological relative). It therefore needs special handling, and only special parents can really do it. But you'll find that academic researchers (those who publish in peer-reviewed journals - not those who publish non-academic books) do not agree that change of caregiver at birth is intrinsically traumatic. See, for example, if you are into that kind of thing, Adoption Losses: Naturally Occurring or Socially Constructed IG Leon - Child Development, 2002, from which I quote:

"Mainstream adoption researchers and specialists(Brinich, 1980; Brodzinsky et al., 1992; Nickman, 1985) do not believe that infant adoption constitutes
an immediate loss at placement that inevitably disrupts early attachments."


"No empirical evidence documents the formation of attachment prepartum or immediately postpartum. Although selective responsiveness to early, familiar stimuli may begin at birth (Schechter, 2000), regarding this selective responsiveness as the continuation of a prenatal attachment by the newborn violates empirical data documenting attachments that have been formed not due to consanguinity or prepartum experience, but via repeated, mutual interactions of nurturance provided by caregiver to infant during the first months of life (Bowlby, 1969; Karan, 1994)"

Feel free to comment here - I don't tend to respond to comments, laziness I think really, but unless the discussion gets nasty I'll be leaving it open.

(And Tues 23rd's IComLeavWe comments are at:
Barren Albion (cheating really as she's not on the list and I spend loads of time at her blog anyway!)
Creating New Life
The Binky Diaries
Mrs Spock

Returned a comment made on the 23rd by Elusive BFP
(That was actually returned on the 24th and I don't think I made 5 comments on the 23rd - slacker! But to be fair all my comments on the 23rd were either non-ICLW people, or were returns of my comments, or don't have a link to their blog!)


Kelly D said...

I was intrigued by the information you posted about adoption, birth mother bonds, etc. The friends and family members of mine that have adopted have all had good experiences with bonding with the adopted child. They all have differing times of when the adoptions too place, some at birth, some at 18 months, etc. I've been told the transition from caregivers can be challenging for the babies/toddlers at first, but after a few months my friends have had good luck with their children.

Photogrl said...

Interesting post...lots to think about.

Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! :)


Echloe said...

I'm sure as with anything each case is different. There are just so many variables in each adoption that certain things may lead to traumas. Anyway, very interesting post.


Mrs Woggie said...

Thank you for visiting my blog, I'm returning your comment.

I never knew that attachment didn't happen until 6-9 months, that is very interesting.

Here from ICLW.

m de p said...

Here via ICLW.

Wow. Thanks for following up the post over at Henry Street, and for pointing out the post (at lease for me) there.

I'm glad you've decided to continue the conversation over here. Conversation among triad members is so important.

Thalia said...

This fits with my experience with Pob. I really didn't see any difference in how she interacted with me, my mother, my best friend, in the first few months. Perhaps a bit earlier than six months, and certainly by 8 months, she became very attached to me, but before that she was quite relaxed about who looked after her. It's a hard topic to discuss though, as so many adoptees feel differently.

Anonymous said...

Heres some links for you to do your own research on. I wonder if that laziness also applies to your research on separation trauma? Because your "facts" are wrong. There isn't much to debate on. I do hope for the sake of any adoptee in your life however, that you read the following with an open mind and willingness to give the best to any adoptee you are raising. IF you're an AP. I came here from the "other" blog and don't read yours. So the AP part is an assumption. The rest however, is not. I have many more links where these came from.



more specifically:







Anonymous said...

I've read a lot of pro-adoption research, and yes, there is a LOT out there! More recently I've been digging around and have found that - surprise - many pro-adoption "experts" are also adoptive parents. (Just like many adoption social workers are paps or aps.)

However, the thing that intrigues me more than the so-called experts who have not experienced separation from their own child, is the incredible connection that a mother and child can experience upon meeting one another after being separated for 20, 30, 40, etc., years. Where does that come from? I suppose in part it comes from the mother/fetus bond, in part from the shared genetics, in part because the mother carries the cells of her child with her for decades, in part because the child carries half of his or her mother's dna.

Ahhh, but better to listen to the "experts" or at least someone who's gone to school and learned this stuff first hand from a text book!

Anonymous said...

What amazes me is that anybody would even try to dispute that there is trauma associated with a child losing their mother, father and family. How would you feel if your family disappeared today and no one would tell you where they are? A bit truamatized?? For the adopted person not only do they not know where their family is, they don't even know their names! How on earth is this trauma acceptable,let alone debatable?