Early Adoption Found of Value to Future Lives

<i> from Associated Press</i>

The earlier the adoption, the better a child does in adolescence, according to a study of teens adopted when they were babies.

The study issued late last month casts doubt on the belief that adopted teen-agers are more likely to be troubled than others their age.

Early adoption is “the key in the successful attachment of child to parents, and vice versa,” said study co-author Peter Benson, a psychologist. “We cannot overstate its power.”


Benson said that more than three-fourths of the adopted teens studied are in a “positive zone of mental health.”

The four-year, $1-million study, described as the largest U.S. study of adopted babies, focused on children who were less than 15 months old when they were adopted between 1974 and 1980.

About 2,000 members of 715 families in Colorado, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota were questioned. The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

“What seems particularly important is how parents deal with adoption,” Benson said. “In families that are thriving, adoption is a fact of life that is accepted and affirmed, not dwelt on. It’s no big deal.”

Only 27% of the 881 adopted teens surveyed said being adopted “is a big part of how I think of myself.”

Among the report’s other conclusions:

* “Transracially” adopted babies (most in the study were Asian) do as well when they reach adolescence as those adopted by parents of their own race.


* Parents with adopted babies stick together. Only 11% of those studied were divorced or separated, compared with 28% in a national sample of couples with adolescents.

* The adopted teens studied were slightly less likely to engage in “high-risk health behavior,” such as substance abuse and early sex.