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Family Life

Adoptive Families: Recognizing Differences

If you have adopted a child, you are aware of some of the dissimilarities; between your family and most others. You certainly prepared for your child in a different way—not with a nine-month pregnancy, but rather by going through the lengthy legal process involved in adoption, usually preceded by years of trying unsuccessfully to become pregnant yourself. Your child has biologi­cal relatives outside of your family somewhere in the world.

Recognizing Differences

You also have recognized that your youngster is not like you in some ways—that is, her eyes may be a different color, her race may not be the same as yours, and her temperament might be different. She might be outgoing and you might be quiet and reserved; you might be more intellectual, while she might be more athletic and physical. Of course, these latter differences are ones that occur in all families, but they may have special meaning for adoptive parents and their children.

If You Adopted An Older Child

If you did not adopt your child at infancy but rather during the preschool or elementary-school years, her upbringing before you became part of her life could present some problems.

  • Some children may have been denied affection, or even basic nutrition or medical care, in their prior living environment.
  • Oth­ers may have been physically abused and thus may have emotional scars from that experience.

In some cases a lot of tender loving care is enough to put these children back on track; in other instances children and family members may benefit from some counseling with a mental health professional. The long-term consequences of these early experiences are often difficult to predict.


No matter what the reasons for and circumstances of the adoption, most of these children are well-adjusted and happy. Nevertheless, adoptive families of­ten feel different and sometimes socially isolated. Indeed, these differences are real, and there are issues unique to the adoptive family that need to be ac­knowledged and addressed. Like most adoptive families, your own family can learn to deal with them well.

Last Updated
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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