• By Kevin Mount
  • Posted on Thursday 29th November, 2007

Adopted children defy gloomy Leiden logic

Some adopted children have good reasons for being down on themselves. They might have been neglected, abused, or malnourished in institutions before adoption. They might feel shame about being adopted. And if their race or original nationality is different from that of their adoptive parents, they might feel less integrated into their families than non-adopted children. For all these reasons, Femmie Juffer and Marinus H. van IJzendoorn, experts on adoption, attachment and child development at the Centre for Child and Family Studies at Leiden University, expected research to show that adopted children do not feel as worthwhile and confident as other children do.They were wrong. They report on the errors in their predictions in a recent issue of Psychological Bulletin. Juffer and van IJzendoorn looked at 88 studies, which together included more than 10,000 adoptees. Using a meta-analytical approach, they found no difference in self-esteem between adoptees and those not adopted.The authors also expected that some subgroups of adoptees would fare worse than others in the self-esteem department. But, here again, they found no evidence to support their predictions. Those adopted after the age of one did as well as those adopted as babies. Children adopted from other countries had similar levels of self-esteem as domestic adoptees. And children adopted into families of other races did not differ from children adopted into families of the same race. The only significant difference they found was between children who were adopted into families and those raised in institutions. The former generally had higher self esteem than the latter. However, only three studies looked at these groups, so these findings are not as robust as the others.The authors suggest that their surprising findings may be explained by adoptees' resilience to overcome early adversity, supported by the large investment made in their security by adoptive families. They conclude that adoption is often an effective intervention, leading to normative self-esteem.• Summary of “Adoptees do not lack self-esteem: A Meta-analysis of studies on self-esteem of transracial, international, and domestic adoptees” by Femmie Juffer and Marinus H. van IJzendoorn in Psychological Bulletin, November 2007 Vol. 133, No. 6, pp1067–1083.[For Leiden University's own coverage of the report see also Self image of adopted children equally good]

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