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A New Study Looks at Troubled Teens

Does Adoption Add to Troubled Teens?

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Does adoption have an impact on adolescence? A new study looks at whether adoption creates troubled teens.

The May 2008, issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine reports the findings of a new study that involved 1000 adolescents; 692 adolescents, ages 11 to 21, who were adopted as infants (514 internationally adopted) and 540 non-adopted adolescents. The study supports previous studies that show that more adopted adolescents will probably wind up on a therapist's couch and diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD than non-adopted teens.

The report also found that internationally adopted teens seem to do better than domestically adopted teens, but as a whole adopted adolescents seem to get through their teens years just about as well as non-adopted adolescents.

The Findings

  • Adoptees scored significantly higher on "externalizing behaviors or "acting out" with most of that excess problem behaviors in domestically adopted adolescents.

  • 25% of domestically adopted boys were diagnosed at some point with oppositional defiant disorder or ODD. Compare that to 12% of non-adoptees and 20% of international adoptees that were diagnosed with ODD.

  • 29% of domestically adopted boys were diagnosed with ADHD, compared with 8% of non-adopted teens and 19% international adoptees.

  • 15% domestically adopted boys had conduct disorder, compared with 6% of non-adoptees and 8% of international adoptees.

  • The ratio was the same for adopted teen girls, but the prevalence was about 1/3 lower than for boys.

  • Internalizing disorders such as depression and separation anxiety was about the same for all adopted and non-adopted teens.

The new study asks many questions: Do adopted children really have more problems in the teen years? Or do adoptive parents over-react to typical, normal teen behaviors and seek mental health help? Because of this latter issue, this newest research is based on interviews of the teens and their teachers as well as the parents. It has been found that many adoptive parents can exaggerate concerns. Interesting that it was also found to be more skewed with teen girls than with teen boys. However, more of the teen boys that were sent for mental health care by adoptive parents met criteria for a behavior disorder.

The big problem in sorting out why adopted teens struggle a bit more is the fact that adolescence is a time of questioning and dealing with being unsure of one's self and one's identity. Throw in the fact that most adoptees do not know who they are may add to the issues of adolescence.

The report was quick to point out the following: "One message that would be wrong to take home from studies of adolescent adoptees is that counseling is evidence of failure, experts said."

I agree. We all need some help along this road. Adoptive parenting is not for wimps!

SOURCE:
Adolescence Can Sting Adopted Kids - washingtonpost.com
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