Tag: mental-health

Adopted Child Syndrome

The Adopted Child Syndrome: Controversy and Reality

Adopted Child Syndrome includes a pattern of maladaptive behavior that may be mistaken for other disorders; therapy and proper family dynamics usually help.

 | Last updated: Nov 2, 2013
Addressing Adoption Issues May Clarify Behavior Addressing Adoption Issues May Clarify Behavior | Horia Varlan

Long-term studies examining the emotional and mental health of children who were adopted as infants indicate that most fare very well. They are not plagued by low self-esteem or chronic lack of empathy, and are actually less likely to exhibit delinquent behavior during adolescence than are their non-adopted counterparts.

Nonetheless, about 10% of adopted children exhibit serious behavioral symptoms that are sometimes mistaken for Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Conduct Disorder, Childhood Onset Type. These children are angry, argumentative, and often refuse to accept any personal responsibility for their aggressive actions or outbursts of rage.

Psychologist Dr. David Kirschner has coined the phrase “Adopted Child Syndrome” to refer to this aggregate of symptoms; the syndrome is considered controversial and has not yet been included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Possible Psychodynamics of Adopted Child Syndrome

In a healthy adoptive situation, parents are open and honest about the child’s adoptive status. In dysfunctional situations, parents either wildly overcompensate by showering the child with intrusive attention and material things; or utterly ignore the fact of adoption as much as possible, refusing to discuss birth parents or the adoptive process with the child.

The adopted child thus never develops an adequate conscience because there is a proposed schism between good and “evil” self-images. Often, the child believes that a “good adoptee” would never want to know about or meet his birth parents. At the same time, hostility toward the adopted parents builds, leading to explosions of fury. (In less than 1% of such cases, the adopted child eventually murders one or both of his parents.)

Children with the syndrome also have a tendency to act out in such distressing ways (fire setting, truancy, compulsive lying, violence toward animals or other children) that they suffer inevitable rejection by parents, peers, and authority figures. This defensive provocation gives the child a measure of perceived control: The world is rejected before the world has a chance to reject the child. Their actions increase their isolation, confusion, and frustration.

Interestingly, the same feelings of alienation exhibited by some adopted children have been tracked in studies of “test tube babies” as well. Some feel adrift and disconnected from society, the product of a mere donor rather than the child of a loving parent. In fact, symptoms of pain and confusion are much stronger and more prevalent in sperm donors’ offspring than they are in adopted children.

Of course, the above statements are generalizations gleaned by therapists and researchers through their interactions with myriad adoptees and their adoptive families. Each case will exhibit its own unique characteristics; symptomology and its origins do not always fit into a neat little box.

Pre-exsiting Conditions That Can Be Confused With Adopted Child Syndrome

Sometimes an adoptee comes to her new home with a plethora of problems. These may include Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, attachment disorder, and PTSD or Acute Stress Reaction from pre-adoption abuse. Other factors that seem to increase the development of behavioral problems in adoptees include: older age at the time of the adoption, and a longer amount of time spent in institutional-style settings such as orphanages.

Adoptive parents may wrongly blame themselves for the child’s symptoms, and perhaps not seek available therapeutic help due to misplaced feelings of shame or depression. Some parents even harshly punish the child for wrongdoing, which usually exacerbates the problem.

Treatment for Adopted Child Syndrome

Unlike true Conduct Disorder or Antisocial Personality, those who exhibit symptoms of Adopted Child Syndrome have a more encouraging prognosis. Their preoccupation with biological origins, which is often vociferously denied because it causes guilt, can be brought out and resolved through psychotherapy.

If the adoptive parents are very reluctant to discuss adoption with the child, they too may benefit from counseling sessions. Results are often excellent; though as with all emotional disorders, long-term therapy may be required. The prognosis for adopted children with Conduct Disorder is, unfortunately, not so optimistic.

Positive Family Dynamics and Adopted Child Syndrome

In general, parents who maintain an environment of nicely balanced structure and flexibility in the home will achieve the best results with a troubled adoptee.

One Lakota Sioux child’s delinquent behavior virtually disappeared when her Caucasian adoptive parents permitted her to visit Native American reservations, where she learned about her culture and incorporated some aspects of Native American spiritual beliefs into her family’s Christian tradition.

The family’s tolerance of the child’s anxious identity quest is probably key to permanently resolving the behavioral issues. If the adoptee is required to deny his longing for knowledge of his origins, it’s believed that the psychopathological behavior is likely to continue or worsen.

First Step: Admitting that Trauma of Adoption Exists

Since the vast majority of adopted children do not exhibit Adopted Child Syndrome, psychologists worry that adoptions will be needlessly discouraged if they admit that some children are deeply traumatized by the adoption process. This fear is possibly specious or overemphasized, as most prospective adoptive parents realize that an immense amount of work is required to raise any child; a natural child may well have special needs or severe emotional issues, and no one worries that the birth rate will plummet because of this.

Moreover, the Adopted Child Syndrome is generally only mentioned in the media in relation to the less than 1% of alleged sufferers who commit murder (e.g., Matthew Heikkila, David Berkowitz, Joel Rifkin). Thus it becomes difficult for patients and therapists to examine the facts rationally and conclude that the Syndrome’s existence should not be denied just because it has occasionally been exploited for “shock value” publicity or used as an excuse by those desperate to justify indefensible actions.



  • American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision, Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 2000.
  • Clark, Karen and Marquardt, Elizabeth, “The Sperm-Donor Kids Are Not Really All Right,” Slate, June 2010.
  • Coulter, Ann, Guilty, New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2008.
  • Kershaw, Sarah, “In some adoptions, love is not enough,” MSNBC, April 2010.
  • Lang, Denise, The Dark Son, New York: Avon Books, 1995.
  • Niels, “ Adopted Child Syndrome,” Pound Pup Legacy, April 2007.
  • Pipher, Dr. Mary, Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, New York: Ballantine Books, 1994.

Adopted Child Syndrome

This is a controversial but very interesting subject to study.  I am not going to post any more than this Wikipedia post but there is a lot out there to read.  It is politically incorrect because it is negative on adoption (which I’m not).   Like I said, very interesting . . .

Adopted child syndrome

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Adopted child syndrome is a controversial term that has been used to explain behaviors in adopted children that are claimed to be related to their adoptive status. Specifically, these include problems in bonding, attachment disorderslying, stealing, defiance of authority, and acts of violence. The term has never achieved acceptance in the professional community. The term is not found in the American Psychiatric Association‘s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th edition, TR.

History of the term[edit]

David Kirschner, who coined the term, says that most adoptees are not disturbed and that the syndrome only applies to “a small clinical subgroup”.[1]

Researchers Brodizinsky, Schechter, and Henig[2] find that in a review of the literature, generally children adopted before the age of six-months fare no differently than children raised with their biological parents. Later problems that develop among children adopted from the child welfare system at an older age are usually associated with the effects of chronic early maltreatment in the caregiving relationship; abuse and neglect.

Psychologist Betty Jean Lifton, herself an adopted person, has written extensively on psychopathology in adopted people, primarily in Lost and Found: The Adoption Experience, and Journey of the Adopted Self: A Quest for Wholeness and briefly discusses Adopted child syndrome.[1][3][4]

Judith and Martin Land, Adoption Detective: Memoir of an Adopted Child, (2011), identify genealogical bewildermentoppositional defiant disorderselective mutismanti-social behaviorThe Primal Wound, and other related terms to describe potential effects of adoption on children who are orphaned, fostered, or adopted.

What Happened to Demons?

Mental illness vs demons

You probably won’t hear this discussion in a therapy session or in any mental institution.  I’m not surprised at that.  The medical community isn’t based on spiritual thought and they don’t base problems or solutions on spiritual approaches.

But what about in the Christian community?  I titled this “what happened to demons?” because in the majority of churches in America demons are not really mentioned.  There is occasional talk.  We read the scriptures about them.  We read fictitious books about them.  We may fantasize about them but most of us don’t really go out looking for them on a daily basis.

Let’s go back to scripture.  Demons aren’t mentioned in the Old Testament.  In the New Testament they are mentioned approximately 80 times.  They are mainly included in the passages related to other healings.  It was clear that Jesus addressed some ailments, sicknesses, and unhealthy behavior as “demon possessed.”

So what happened since then?  Did the demons go away?  Did the Bible (Jesus) identify mental illness as demon possession?  Or do we identify demon possession as mental illness?  This is not a subject that can be fully covered in a short blog and it is not my intent to prove anything on either side.  I am certainly not judging those who suffer from mental illness, the professionals who work in this area, or the medications that are being offered.  It is clear that millions of people suffer – really suffer from all types of mental afflictions every day.

But I wonder and I question.  I seek answers from God.  I have seen attempted demon deliverance – it is freaky and scary.  It’s not something for the faint of heart.  I also believe that it can be dangerous.  At this point, I’m going to stop.  I may go deeper into it if there is demand.  I simply ask that you join me in prayer over a subject that is not being addressed in today’s church.

Mark 5:1 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.[a] 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

Counting down to an anniversary

Many of you have been asking how we are doing.  Thank you.  We have really appreciated the prayers over the past year more than you will ever know.

We are at 11 months, 3 days; counting down the days to the one year anniversary of Isaiah taking his life.  It is hard to describe the range of emotions over the past year.  Losing a child to a tragic accident or illness is terrible.  Losing a child to suicide seems so defeating and so unfair.   In any death, the mourners go through a number of journeys.  You get through the first night, the first day, the first week, the first month.  And then it begins to slow down.  You click off the monthly anniversaries for awhile but they begin to fade in time.  At eleven months, the original emotions begin to fire up again while waiting for the big anniversary to arrive.  One year.  We’ve made it through one year.  We think about what we were doing a year ago and question if we could see it coming.  For me, I just want to get past this date.  I want to put it behind me so that my conscious level of events will call down again.

For the readers who don’t know us, let me give a very BRIEF summary of events.  There are too many to list in detail.  We adopted Isaiah from an orphanage in Guatemala at the age of 8 (although he turned 9 a week after coming home).  He was a bright, happy child with amazing soccer skills and a good work ethic.  We had gotten to know Isaiah over a couple years in the orphanage and that helped with many of the transition issues.

I’m going to jump ahead three years.  Isaiah was now twelve and overall was doing well.  We went to counseling most weeks and we were trying to deal with his anger and bad attitudes at home.  Outside of the home he seemed well adjusted but we were beginning to see signs of trouble – stealing, lying, anger, frustration, depression and an unhealthy attraction to girls and pornography.  We began tightening the controls but he was always able to get around them.  

Violence entered the picture that year as well.  The first time, he pushed his mom down.  The second time he punched a hole through our bedroom door.  We continually found knives in his room and once we found a 24 ounce bottle of gasoline in his bedroom along with lighters.  He began making threats of suicide along with warnings of “this will get worse if you don’t let me . . .”  There was a night of stone cold drunkenness that ended in the ER for the night.  Evaluations by a psychiatrist and medication for mood swings, and court ordered rehab.  Running away was becoming standard along with stealing from friends and neighbors to get on the internet.  Grades were going down.  Flags were going up everywhere that this was getting worse.

We looked into adolescent facilities, boys camps, counseling, therapy, etc.  This part of the adventure may be several blogs in the future.  If you haven’t experienced it, don’t.  

In May of 2013, Isaiah hit his mom in the face knocking her down unconsciousness for a moment.  I ran and picked her up.  One side of her face swelled to the size of a lemon and then turned black and blue for about a month.  A tooth was broken and possibly a broken bone in her face.  We were already on a first name basis with all the police in our town and our other son was becoming skilled in calling 911.

A month later the police were called by our next door neighbor who came home and realized that someone was in their house.  This arrest landed Isaiah in juvenile jail for 3 weeks and house arrest for a couple of months.   Needless to say, none of the bad behaviors stopped – the stealing continued, running away, lying, porn, etc. They didn’t end with jail or court ordered counseling and testing.

I can only assume that Isaiah’s world was spinning out of control.  He still seemed happy at school. He was still trying to play soccer and he wanted to try out for wrestling later in the week.  On his last day he had a good day at school and came home happy.  He announced that he was going downstairs to do homework. That was the last time we heard from him.  He texted an unknown girl on another stolen Iphone that he was “going to jump in 3”.  

What brings a person to this?  What demons were fighting in him that were so strong that he couldn’t win the battle?  Those are questions that we won’t answer until we go home with him.  Isaiah was a believer.  I stood with him when he dedicated his life to Christ.  I don’t understand it all and maybe I never will.

Back to us – since this was his act by choice, we have had a lot of anger against him.  But anger isn’t the only emotion either.  We have many of the usual mourning emotions.  Lately I have done the double takes when I think that I see him only to realize that it is another boy that looks similar.  But there has been a lot of relief as well.  Anyone who has to care for a special needs child knows the day to day burden.  We couldn’t leave him alone.  There was constant stress and anger in our home.  There was concern, alright fear, for our safety.  It was a 24/7 burden that appeared to have no end. We were tired to the point of exhaustion but didn’t realize it until it was over.

In the end he stated “I don’t want to do anymore harm to this family.  It is just too hard. You don’t know what I have been through.”  No, Isaiah we don’t.  We miss you and our home is not the same.  We have a lot of freedom now and the daily stress is gone.  It’s not what we wanted and I don’t think its what you really wanted either but this is the reality that has been given to us.  We love you and long to see you again. 


One day closer to dying

I woke up today realizing that I am one day closer to dying.  I’m not trying to rush it.  I’m not hoping it is today.  It is just a fact that there is a point when I will die and everyday I get closer to it.

Our generation worries about death and aging.  We worry about our diet, our health, safety, and how we can prolong this great life.  Truth is, we are living longer than any other generation.  And yet we do everything we can to extend it further.

We sit and talk about what we eat, how we exercise, how we feel, what supplements we take.  Other people groups think about when their next meal will be.  We worry about the balance of our foods – protein, vegetables, fruit and those dreaded carbs.  Imagine, there are people who live on a steady diet of rice and beans their whole life.  To them, meat is a special treat that they may get once or twice a month.  To us, it is something to cut out because it is killing us in one way or another.

I’m not putting down diets.  I wish I was better at self control.  Once again today I am  fighting my addiction to sugar sodas.  I need to lose weight and get my sugar level down.

This isn’t an argument about western diets verses other diets.  Its not about affluence and poverty.  It’s not about living with less.  It’s about living with more – realizing that we are spiritual beings in physical bodies.  These physical bodies will age and die.  Some of us go quickly.  Some will go slowly.

No matter what we eat today, we are one day closer to dying.  Hopefully, we are one day closer to living eternally.  That’s what really matters.  I won’t have a sugar addiction in heaven.  Let’s hope that whatever you “eat” today brings you closer to life.

James 4:13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.