US adolescents who were adopted as infants are about twice as likely to have a disruptive behaviour disorder as their non-adopted peers, research shows.
"Although most adopted American teens are psychologically healthy, adoptees appear to be at greater risk for some behaviour disorders, especially among those domestically placed," Dr Margaret A. Keyes told Reuters Health.
Keyes, of the department of psychology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and colleagues analysed the mental health of 540 non-adopted adolescents, 514 internationally adopted adolescents and 178 domestically adopted adolescents. All of the adoptees were adopted in infancy.
Adoptees scored moderately higher on several standard measures of behavioural and emotional problems, the researchers report in the Archives of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
Nonetheless, being adopted roughly doubled the likelihood of having contact with a mental health professional and of having ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), oppositional defiant disorder, or conduct disorder. Consistent with prior research, domestic adoptees were much more likely than international adoptees to have a disruptive disorder.
Focusing on "internalising" problems, teachers reported that international adoptees were significantly more anxious than non-adopted adolescents and their parents reported significantly more symptoms of depression and separation anxiety.
According to the researchers, roughly 120 000 American children are adopted each year and there are about 1.5 million adoptees under age 18 in total. As domestic adoptions have decreased, the number of international adoptions has increased. "Worldwide, approximately 40 000 children per year are moved between more than 100 countries through adoption," the researchers note.
The study team thinks the "excess of clinically meaningful behavioural problems in adopted adolescents has significance for researchers who examine the effect adoption has on individual functioning, for adoption agencies and their workers who counsel and advise members of the adoption triad and for physicians who are dealing with an overrepresentation of adoptees in their clinical practices." – (Megan Rauscher/Reuters Health)
SOURCE: Archives of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, May 2008.