Research on the Long-Term Effects of Surrendering a Baby to Adoption on Mothers
The research on the effects of adoption loss have usually had to rely on small convenience samples, because no records are kept on adoption surrenders in the United States. Below are examples of some of these studies and their findings regarding the long-term effects on mothers. The articles may be available through your local library.
Blanton, T.L. and Deschner, J. Biological Mothers’ Grief: The Postadoptive Experience in Open Versus Confidential Adoption. Child Welfare, LXIX, 6, Nov-Dec 1990.
This study surveyed 59 mothers who surrendered a child to open adoption and 41 mothers who surrendered to a closed adoption. Results showed that mothers relinquishing a child for adoption tended toward more grief symptoms than parents who lost a child to death, especially if it was an open adoption.
Askren, H.A., and Bloom, K.C. Post-Adoptive Reactions of the Relinquishing Mother: A Review. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecological and Neonatal Nursing, 1999 Jul-Aug; 28(4):395-400.
This article reviewed the literature and found 12 studies on mothers who surrendered children to adoption. The studies reported that mothers experienced many long-term physical and psychosocial effects: 1) grief, shadow grief, guilt, depression, and anger; 2) long-term effects (subsequent life problems, relationship issues, unresolved feelings about relinquishment); 3) efforts to resolve (fantasies/dreams, searching behavior, and reported satisfaction with relinquishment). The research was conflicting on the effects of using open versus closed adoption, but agreed that women experiencing both types experience grief.
Condon, J.T. Psychological disability in women who relinquish a baby for adoption. The Medical Journal of Australia. Vol. 144, Feb 3, 1986.
This study involved 20 women who had surrendered children to adoption in Australia. Results suggested that over half the mothers were suffering from severe and disabling grief reactions, which were not resolving with the passage of time. Symptoms included depression and psychosomatic illness. In addition, over half the women had become excessively over-protective of their subsequent children.
Logan, J. Birth Mothers and their Mental Health: Uncharted Territory. Br. J. Social Wk. (1996) 26, 609-625.
This study involved interviews with 28 women who had surrendered a baby for adoption in Britain from 1991 to 1992. Findings revealed that the relinquishment remained with them and its impact on their lives was considerable. A substantial proportion of the mothers interviewed had experienced mental health effects. 82% reported significant depression (23 mothers) and 19 defining themselves as having a mental health problem. Sixteen had sought mental health treatment.
O’Leary Wiley, M. and Baden, A. Birth Parents in Adoption: Research, Practice, and Counseling Psychology. The Counseling Psychologist, Vol. 33, No. 1, Jan 2005, 13-50.
This study reviewed the literature and found eight studies on long-term effects on mothers who surrendered. In general, these studies reported long-lasting emotional effects. Seven studies implied that for at least some mothers, the relinquishment had been traumatic.