It can be hard to determine if your newly adopted child's anger is typical behavior. Whether adopted as a baby or an older child, this little one has had separation from the birth mother and this is a strong link that is not forgotten. Nancy Verrier calls this The Primal Wound. In the womb, the child is aware of the mother, how she smells, how she laughs and feels, even how she sounds. This baby has been inside the womb for nine months, and even realizes if it was a wanted or unwanted pregnancy -- this baby knows. It also has an awareness of the physical, mental and emotional connection with its mother. Bonding doesn't begin at birth, it begins shortly after conception. Many professionals used to laugh at this idea and thought it impossible for a little baby to know and remember being separated from its birth mother. Alas, the tide has turned and the professionals now believe that this child couldn't help but know that it was separated from its birth mother -- and this is the primal wound that stays with that child forever.
There is a story told by Nancy Verrier in her book, "The Primal Wound" about a little girl who was adopted as a young baby. She had never been told she was adopted. A few years later, when she had reached four-years-old, she had a nightmare and called for her mommy. Her adopted mother went in to comfort her and held her and told her everything would be okay because "Mommy was here." The little girl said, "No, I want my other mommy." This story is not unique and similar stories have surfaced. How did this child know?
Some adopted children develop RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder). This is when a child, teen or adult cannot attach and trust as they should and have trouble developing close intimate relationships. Children begin the cycle of attachment and bonding in the womb and they must receive sufficient nutrition and be free of having been exposed to alcohol and drugs in order to develop properly and to continue the bond of attachment to its mother. If a mother drank, used drugs or didn't receive proper nutrition during her pregnancy, this child can be emotionally affected and more prone to some degree of attachment disorder.
When the child is taken away from its birth mother, even if it is put in the home of a loving family, this child can be confused and it knows this is not the same mother it had originally, and its trusting abilities are lessened. If the child is put into the hospital, or foster care and then moved again and again, its trusting mechanisms do not know what it means to have a consistent caregiver to take care of its constant needs, i.e. hunger, pain, desire to be loved, etc. This will make the child angry and scared and then the cycle has already begun.
After the child is adopted, hopefully into a loving home, it usually decides what role it will play within the family. It may decide to be a complacent and pleasing personality because it wants to make very sure that it doesn't displease these new parents or else it may be abandoned again. Another choice is not to get too close to anyone because they believe this relationship probably won't last very long and getting close will be too painful when it ends. Several adult adoptees I've spoken to have confirmed this behavior. The more neglect, abuse and abandonment a has child suffered, the more deep-seated will be its distrust for adults or anyone in authority.
If a child is adopted young and these feelings and fears are addressed at an early age, they can work through their feelings as long as they get help from someone who understands adoptive issues. An older adopted child has had more years of distrust, anger, rage and rejection to work through. The severity of their history is very much a factor. The rule seems to be one month of therapy for every year of life. It has to be good therapy from a professional who knows and understands RAD and then the child has a chance to heal. So if a child is 16 years old and is controllable enough to stay at home, it would take approximately 16 months to heal with the correct loving guidance. If the child has to be placed outside the home but is put into a residential program where there is a family-type setting with someone to bond with--an extension of the mom, it usually will take longer, but the child will still heal in time. Some residential centers that have no one with whom the child can attach is not a good program for these children.
It is common for adoption issues to remain hidden until adolescence. Sometimes a child seems well-adjusted and happy during the early years and then everything comes out during the teen years. It is also very common for the child to stay in denial and hide deep feelings from everyone, even themselves, and in their teen years -- which is an identity search time -- to have these feelings rise to the surface. Usually, the child knows inside that something is not right but the complexity of their feelings give them fear and they hesitate talking about these fears since they believe they can trust no one.
You DO NOT have to be adopted to have RAD. Any child who has suffered a separation from their original caregiver for a time could have symptoms. If the mother got ill and was in the hospital for a long period of time and separated from her child, or divorce is another example of separation in which the child feels the pain of separation and possibly guilt about the divorce.
Let's look a little deeper into RAD and see what some of the causes and symptoms are.
Causes of RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder)
. unwanted pregnancy
. inconsistent or inadequate day care
. dramatic prenatal experience (exposure to drugs/alcohol)
. sudden separation from the primary caregiver (could be illness/death
of mother or sudden illness or hospitalization of the child)
. abuse (physical, emotional, mental, sexual)
. frequent moves (foster care, failed adoptions)
Now let's look at some of the symptoms of RAD. Some may be obvious, other not quite so apparent.
Symptoms of RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder)
. Superficially engaging and charming child
. indiscrimately affectionate with strangers
. does not trust caregivers or adults in authority
. does not develop a moral foundation; no empathy, no remorse,
no consequence or compassion for others
. resists all efforts to nurture and guide them
. acts out negatively, provoking anger in others
. experiences developmental lags
. will not make eye contact (on parents' terms)
. lies, steals, cheats and manipulates
. are destructive, cruel, argumentative and hostile
. have extreme control problems, manifested in covertly manipulative
or hostile ways
. not cuddly with parents, especially the mother
. cruel to animals, siblings
. lacks cause and effect thinking
. has poor peer relationships
. inappropriately demanding or clinging
. engages in crazy lying or stealing
. lacks a conscience
. engages in persistent nonsense questions or incessant chatter
. has poor impulse control
. tries to separate adults -- get them in fights -- divide them
. fights for control over everything
. engages in hoarding or gorging of food
. has a preoccupation with fire, blood and gore
For more information or guidance as to how to deal with the special problems that some adopted children develop, feel free to contact me at my blue Home Page link "Contact Author."T
The conclusion will be in THE BALLAD OF THE ADOPTED CHILD -- PART II -- NOW AVAILABLE
My second book in the series of Sammi Evans Mysteries, Your Thoughts Can Trap You, deals with RAD children.
. Your Thoughts Can Trap You: A Sammi Evans Mystery by
by Jeanne L. Drouillard
. The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier
. When Love Is Not Enough by Nancy Thomas