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Understanding Why Children Search for Their Birth Parents

Jul 25, 2014

Children have a natural curiosity about where they come from. This is true of children no matter what their background may be. Depending on the circumstances around the adoption or foster care, the child might remember and have known their birth family or might have no recollection of their birth family at all if they were removed as an infant. Adoptive parents can find it difficult to understand why a child whose home is happy and loving would want to search out their birth parents.

Psychologist David Brodzinsky explains adoptive parents may feel upset about their children wanting to seek out their birth parents and can be tempted to hold back what they do know about this information. The desire to know is a natural reflection of a child wanting to know more about themselves, and in older children can really be a big piece of their journey to creating their own self-identity. Brodzinsky explains that while this process was once thought to be indicative of some underlying issue with the adoptive process, it’s now widely believed that the desire of an adopted individual to find their biological roots is in fact a normal and healthy expression of their search for self concept.

Adopted individuals are not seeking to replace their adoptive families when they begin to explore their biological roots. Developmental specialist Marcy Axness explains the search is born out of a desire to make connections with the deep-seeded genetic bond that is innate in humanity. She suggests that rather than allowing it to become a point of anxiety in the relationship between adoptive parents and their children, parents should seek to support their child’s curiosity and to follow it wherever the child needs for it to lead them. The research bears out again and again that reconnecting with birth parents is not detrimental to relations within the adoptive family.

Gregory Keck explains that not all adopted children want to create ongoing relationships with their birth families. Sometimes they simply want to satisfy their curiosity about what those people looked like or how they acted. And it’s also important to realize that many adopted children have no interest at all in meeting their birth parents, even if they were old enough to remember them. Whatever a child’s level of curiosity about their birth families might be, it is generally a healthy and normal outgrowth of their deep curiosity about themselves.


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My best friend searched for her birth mother and a big reason was to help her better understand where she came from.

Having an open adoption is really helpful for everyone involved but especially the adopted child.

My husband is an adoption attorney and has worked with kids/adults looking for their birth parents. It is really common and adoptive parents shouldn't feel threatened but rather should support their child in this process.

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