- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 25, 2005

CHICAGO (AP) — A new study disputes the notion that children adopted from other countries tend to be badly damaged emotionally because of the hardships they have endured.

The analysis of more than 50 years of international data found that these youngsters are only slightly more likely than nonadopted children to have behavioral problems such as aggressiveness and anxiety. And they actually seem to have fewer problems than children adopted within their own countries.

“Our findings may help them fight the stereotype that is often associated with international adoption,” said researchers Femmie Juffer and Marinus H. van Ijzendoorn of Leiden University in the Netherlands.

They pooled results from 137 studies on adoptions by parents living in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Israel.

In the study, adopted children in general had more behavior problems than nonadopted youngsters, regardless of where the adoption took place.

But with backgrounds that often include abandonment, orphanages and civil strife, foreign adoptees sometimes are thought of as difficult, disruptive children — an image that the study does not support, the researchers said.

The results are reassuring for international adoption — which involves more than 40,000 children per year moving among more than 100 countries, they said.

“Before adoption, most international adoptees experience insufficient medical care, malnutrition, maternal separation, and neglect and abuse in orphanages,” the researchers said. But to their surprise, they found that these children do well and largely are able to catch up with their nonadopted counterparts.

The study appears in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

The analysis involved studies on adoption between 1950 and 2005, involving more than 30,000 adoptees and more than 100,000 nonadopted children.

Behavioral problems were relatively uncommon among all of the children studied, but internationally adopted children had a 20 percent greater chance of being disruptive than nonadopted children and a 10 percent greater chance of being anxious or withdrawn. They also were twice as likely as nonadopted children to receive mental-health services.

Children adopted within their own countries had a 36 percent greater chance of being anxious or withdrawn than did the international adoptees and a 50 percent greater chance of being aggressive or disruptive, the study found.

These children also were four times more likely than nonadopted children and twice as likely as internationally adopted children to receive mental-health services. Also, domestically adopted youngsters had a 60 percent greater chance of having behavioral problems than nonadopted children.

Some of the results probably reflect the parents who adopt the foreign children, said Dr. Gregory Plemmons of Vanderbilt University’s clinic for international adoptees. These parents often are financially well-off and tend to seek services like counseling for their children, he said.

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