To assess the social and emotional well-being of adopted children, this section reports on whether children have ever been diagnosed with any of four psychological disorders, including attachment disorder, depression, attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD), or behavior/conduct disorder. Additionally, we report on the percentages of children who exhibit positive and negative social behaviors. See Appendix Table 8 on page 66 for detailed data on each indicator.
Most adopted children fare well, according to six measures of socio-emotional well-being, but a small minority experience serious problems. Parents’ responses indicate that the majority of adopted children have never been diagnosed with each of the four psychological disorders included in the survey. Twelve percent of adopted children have ever been diagnosed with attachment disorder. The survey did not ask about the severity of the disorder. Most adopted children diagnosed with attachment disorder have parents who report a “very warm and close” relationship with their child, although such reports are rarer than among adopted children without attachment disorder (64 compared with 84 percent). Overall, 4 percent of adopted children both have been diagnosed with attachment disorder and have a parent who reported the relationship as not being very warm and close.
The incidence of the other three disorders examined here is lower than for attachment disorder. Fourteen percent of adopted children ages 6 and older have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and have parents who rated the condition as moderate or severe. Eight percent of adopted children ages 2 and older have moderate or severe behavior or conduct problems, according to their parents. Parents of 2 percent of adopted children report their child has been diagnosed with depression and currently has symptoms that are moderate or severe. Also based on parent responses, 14 percent of adopted children have problems with social behaviors. However, parents also reported that 88 percent exhibit positive social behaviors.
Compared to the general population of children, adopted children are more likely to have ever been diagnosed with—and to have moderate or severe symptoms of—depression, ADD/ADHD, or behavior/conduct disorder.24 For example, 9 percent of adopted children ages 2 and older have ever been diagnosed with depression, compared with 4 percent of children in the general population. Additionally, 26 percent of adopted children ages 6 and older have ever been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, compared with 10 percent of children in the general population. A similar pattern of differences emerges for behavior/conduct disorder: 15 percent of adopted children have ever been so diagnosed compared with 4 percent of children in the general population. Adopted children are also somewhat more likely than the general population of children to exhibit problems with social behaviors, and are somewhat less likely to exhibit positive social behaviors; see Figure 19.
Differences in social and emotional well-being by adoption type are apparent for five out of six measures, with children adopted from foster care more likely to have problems. Children adopted from foster care are more likely than those adopted privately from the United States or internationally to have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD (38 percent compared with 19 and 17 percent, respectively), behavior/conduct problems (25 percent compared with 11 and 7 percent), and attachment disorder (21 percent compared with 6 and 8 percent). Furthermore, children adopted from foster care are more likely to have problems with social behaviors than privately adopted U.S. children (18 percent compared with 10 percent), and they are somewhat less likely to exhibit positive social behaviors (83 percent compared with 91 percent);i see Figure 20. However, depression is rare among all adopted children regardless of the type of adoption.
Figure 19. Percentage of children according to measures of social and emotional well-being, by adoptive status
Figure 20. Percentage of adopted children according to measures of social and emotional well being, by adoption type