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Grief Brodzinsky Article

A Psychosocial Model of Adoption Adjustment

by David Brodzinsky, Marshall Schechter and Robin Marantz Henig

The chart is based on Danish psychologist Erik Erickson's seven-stage model of the developmental tasks that people face throughout a lifetime. Erickson identified conflicts that need to be resolved in various developmental stages. Issues that are unresolved resurface to affect later development throughout the lifetime of the person. Researchers, Brodzinsky, Schechter and Henig adapted Erickson's tasks to adoption.

Age Psychosocial Tasks Adoption-Related Tasks
Infancy Trust vs. Mistrust Adjusting to transition to a new home.
Developing secure attachments, especially in cases of delayed placement.
Toddlerhood and Preschool Autonomy or independence Learning about birth and reproduction.
Adjusting to initial information about adoption.
Recognizing differences in physical appearance, especially in interracial and intercountry adoption.
Middle Childhood Industry vs. Inferiority Understanding the meaning and implications of being adopted.
Searching for answers and implications of being adopted.
Coping with physical differences from family members.
Coping with stigma associated with adoption.
Coping with peer reactions to adoption, and that adoption means loss.
Grieve loss even when happy with adoptive family.
Begin to understand legal process; may fear being taken or relinquished again.
Can express anger, hurt and sadness about feelings of abandonment and/or rejection.
Adolescence Ego Identity vs. Identity Confusion Further exploration of the meaning and implications of adoption.
Connecting adoption to one’s sense of identity; tend to guard thoughts
Coping with racial identity in cases of interracial adoption.
Coping with physical differences from family members.
Resolving family romance fantasy; want more information about birthparents.
Coping with adoption-related loss, especially as it relates to the sense of self.
Considering the possibility of searching for biological family.
Young Adulthood Intimacy vs. Isolation Further exploration of the implications of adoption as it relates to the growth of self
and the development of intimacy.
Further considerations of searching and/or beginning the search.
Adjusting to parenthood in light of the history of one’s relinquishment.
Facing one’s unknown genetic history in the context of the birth of children.
Coping with adoption-related loss.
Middle Adulthood Generativity vs. Stagnation Further exploration of the implications of adoption as it relates to the aging self.
Reconciling the creation of a psychological legacy with one’s unknown past.
Further considerations of searching. Coping with adoption-related loss.
Late Adulthood Ego Integrity vs. Despair Final resolution of the implications of adoption in the context of a life review.
Final considerations regarding searching for surviving biological family.