NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 24, 2005

International adoption is often perceived as riskier than domestic adoption since many children suffer from insufficient medical care, malnutrition, maternal separation and neglect and abuse while in orphanages, but international adoptees tend to be less likely to experience to behavioral problems or to be referred for mental-health treatment, says the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

According to the study of medical literature from the 1950s to the present, researchers found:

  • Among 25,281 cases and 80,260 controls, adoptees (both within and between countries) presented more behavior problems, but nearly 5,092 adoptees were overrepresented in mental-health services.
  • Among 15,790 cases and 30,450 controls, international adoptees showed more behavior problems than non-adopted controls.
  • Overall, international adoptees showed fewer total, externalizing and internalizing, behavior problems than domestic adoptees and are less often referred to mental-health services than domestic adoptees.

The explanation may lie in part with the adoptive parents, say researchers:

  • Parents who are willing to adopt a child from overseas may be more highly motivated to raise children than parents who adopt from within their own country.
  • Obvious racial differences between parents and children, which are more likely to exist in families formed through international adoption, may prevent parents from trying to keep the fact of the adoption a secret, resulting in more communication and trust.

Even though more international adoptees are referred to mental health services than non-adopted children, they still present fewer behavioral problems and are less often referred to mental health services than domestic adoptees, says JAMA.

Source: Femmie Juffer and Marinus H. van Ijzendoorn, "Behavior Problems and Mental Health Referrals of International Adoptees: A Meta-analysis," Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 293, no. 20, May 25, 2005.

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