Adopted Child Syndrome
* In response to Alan Dershowitz’s column condemning the “abuse excuse” defense (Commentary, May 15):
I wholeheartedly agree that promoting the so-called adopted child syndrome victimizes thousands of normal, well-adjusted, and productive people who happen to have been loved and parented by adoption rather than by biology.
However, Dershowitz fails to point out that adopted people are frequently victimized and stigmatized in our culture. The widely viewed film “Problem Child II,” where the star is a first-rate brat who happens to have been adopted, clearly maligns adopted children. The press often differentiates between adopted and non-adopted people, even when this difference is irrelevant to the story’s content (e.g., the custody battle over Loni Anderson and Burt Reynolds’ young son.)
But the most egregious victimization is that performed by mental health professionals and educators. Many psychiatrists, psychologists and teachers think of adopted children as ipso facto troubled and disturbed. Modern scientifically conducted research, however, finds that adopted people in general are as well-adjusted as non-adopted people.
Many professionals (as well as non-professionals) do not know what most adopted people and their parents know: 1) that one can easily love someone who does not come from one’s own gene pool and 2) that most birth mothers agonize to make the best adoption plan possible for their babies.
Dershowitz is quite right to assert that “the vast majority of adopted childrendo not kill” or commit other serious crimes. But don’t blame Martin Efman, accused mass murderer Joel Rifkin’s defense attorney, for utilizing the distorted perceptions of adoptedness that already exist in our society. After all, the attorney’s job is to defend his client by any means necessary.
LYNN F. KESSLER, Ph.D.
Adoption Research Center