Current trauma: the impact of adoption practices up till the early 1970s

25 Aug 2011

Understanding the grief, loss and ongoing trauma associated with past practices is essential to be able to provide appropriate services to meet the needs of those affected.

As past adoption practices cannot be "undone", one of the steps in the journey for both mothers and children given up for adoption is the choice around reunion. Given the variation in responses provided in the case study literature, and the absence of any systematic empirical evidence, this is an area where further research would be of particular value. Services attempting to support those affected - including professional counsellors, agencies and support groups - would all benefit from a greater understanding of typical pathways through the reunion process, estimates of the number of reunions that have occurred, the perspectives of those involved, and factors that are associated with positive and negative reunion experiences.

Apart from these issues relating to reunion, there are other ongoing issues for mothers affected by past adoption practices, including problems with:

  • personal identity (the concept of "motherhood" and self-identity as a good mother);
  • relationships with others, including husbands/partners, subsequent children;
  • connectedness with others (problematic attachments); and
  • ongoing anxiety, depression and trauma.

The needs identified by writers in this field are consistent with the broader theoretical and empirical literature on other forms of trauma, such as the field of child abuse and neglect or adult sexual assault. As with other groups who have experienced pain and trauma, having society recognise what has occurred (i.e., naming it, and understanding how it occurred and its impact) is an important element in coping with and adjusting to the deep hurt they have experienced.

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