Adoption and the effects on adolescents

Puberty is the stage at which a teenager transit from childhood into adulthood. It entails psychological, cognitive and emotional growth. This step marks where a person’s thinking progresses the way a child does to the way a grown-up does. As a result of the advancement in reasoning skills adolescents may be greatly affected by the knowledge that they are adopted.

According to Erikson’s theory ego makes positive contributions to the development by mastering ideas and skills at each stage of development. Adolescents set their eyes onto their parents as role models as they strive to grow into successful people in the society. Erikson identified eight developmental stages that individuals must go through as they cross into adulthood from infancy (Sokol, 2009). Based on the eight stages it is important for psychological conflicts to be fought so that a teenager grows into a well-adjusted and healthy adult. Failure of completion of any of the stages may result in the lack of fundamental virtues which would have been used by ego in resolving subsequent crises.

It becomes hard for adopted adolescents to go through the eight stages smoothly. This is an attribute of many reasons one being they feel lonely and fail to seek support where they ought to have asked for. One of the crucial stages for teenagers is when they are faced with the task of identity vs. role confusion at the age of 12-18 years. The primary challenge of any adolescent is to develop a sense of self (Moshman, 2005). They struggle to try to find out who they are, what they seek to achieve in life among other questions. It is because of this that adolescents will imitate and try different personalities to see which one will be compatible with them. At this juncture, parents are the most relied upon. Infants that emerge successful at this stage have a strong sense of identity and remain loyal to their roots of values even in times of problems.

When children come to know they are adopted at this stage, they end up developing a weak sense of self and become victims of role confusion (Mile, 2003). Some of them give up in searching for identity becoming confused about their future. Unfortunately, adopted teenagers struggle to adopt a positive role will most probably struggle to find themselves as adults. The stage becomes problematic as balance is sought between developing a unique personal identity while still being accepted. Erikson’s notion was that when a youth successfully navigate this crisis they come out with a solid understanding of who they are and can easily share it with others. 

As for an adopted teenager, he or she is likely to be less concerned about their identity as regard it useless. They, therefore, assimilate an identity that appeases their adoptive parents or guardian. At first, this might not have any adverse effects, but later on in life, it may haunt them. In future, such individuals become cut –off and socially disconnected from others (Fleming, 2004).  Identity development is not an activity that takes place only in adolescence. It is a life-long process since identity is reevaluated and reconsidered at every age. 

Usually, adopted adolescents will seek to have more details about their original history and how they are unique.  They will reflect on their adoptive parents and themselves in trying to identify differences and similarities. They will do all that is in their might in trying to find out more about their origin. It might be difficult for them to share this thought with their guardians openly and this breaks communication or act as a barrier for them to link up (Mile, 2003). The outcome is that the adolescent struggles alone in identifying their self.

It is expected for adopted adolescents’ to search for information about them. Parents’ willingness to accept their child’s dual heritage of biology and environment is vital in the identity vs. role confusion stage. Having two different sets of parents make it difficult for teens to find their identity. Questions that adopted teenagers ask themselves are more in comparison to the case of a typical teenager. Another effect that faces adopted adolescents is that thought they always have of how their life would have turn different if they had been adopted by a different family or had not been adopted in the first place. They often wonder what would have become of them under different circumstances.

In spite of adolescence being a confusing time for teenagers, adopted ones are faced with issues such as rejection and desire to connect with their roots. Developing an individual identity is more complicated for an adoptee as they live knowing that an essential part of their personal history is on the other side of the adoption barrier. In the case of a close adoption, any wish by the adopted adolescent to learn more about their heritage is denied, which may cause future chaos in the life of the teenager. Unfortunately, most of these adopted children believe that they were given away either because them coming into existence was a mistake or because something was wrong with them from the start. This mindset negatively affects a teen’s navigation through the identity vs. role stage.


Fleming, J. (2004). Erikson’s Psychosocial Developmental Stages.

Mile, J. (2003, February 12). Does Adoption Affect the Ericksonian Task of Identity Formation.

Moshman, D. (2005). Adolescent Psychological Development: Rationality, Morality, and Identity (2nd ed.). Retrieved November 4, 2016,

Sokol, J. (2009, January 3). Graduate Journal of Counseling Psychology. Identity Development Throughout the Lifetime: An Examination of Eriksonian Theory1(2).

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