Thursday, April 21, 2011

Nature vs Nurture.

Nature vs Nurture has been a debate in child development for decades. When I started my adoption journey, I believed nurture conquers all. I was wrong. Among the factors it doesn't conquer is prenatal alcohol exposure, mental illness that is present in both biological parents, genetic disorders, and congenital diseases.

When you chose to conceive a child, you have some control over these factors. You can chose not to drink. You probably know if you or the child's other parent battles a mental illness. Some genetic disorders can be tested for, some are spontaneous mutations. Congenital diseases don't give you a lot of ways to prevent them, but you do what you can do, like taking vitamin C to help prevent spina bifida.

When you adopt an infant, all you can do is ask questions. If the birth mother doesn't want you to know there isn't much you can do. The rate of mental illnesses in children adopted at infancy is significantly higher than for biological children. The speculation is that people who chose  adoption for their newborn are more likely to live with a mental illness and self medicate with alcohol and other drugs. Researchers are trying to isolate various factors, but given the nature of adoption historically it is proving difficult. I know that GB's birthmother still denies using alcohol during the pregnancy, even with scores of people who say they saw her and GB's facial features. She denies she is mentally ill even though she is receiving SSI for being Bipolar.

When you adopt an older child, you get to throw in PTSD and attachment issues, and if you hit the jackpot, even RAD.

Although I am a firm proponent of scientific, evidence based interventions, I also believe each child, no matter how they enter your family, is a gift from God and we are expected to help them fulfill the purpose God has for them. Contradictory? Yes, but still what I believe.

6 comments:

In the Pink said...

Wishing you and your girls some serenity.

J. said...

One of may favourite case studies around that theory is my sister, she has one of each, adopted and bio and it is so funny to watch 2 kids rasied by the same mom fromt ehmoment they were born be so very, very different. may the weekend bring some calm to you and those girls of yours. Miss you.

Mom of the Perpetually Grounded said...

This is true. My kids do not have the same issues yours have dealt with and are not adopted but: They were raised in an environment that was as loving, conscientious, supportive and aware of the possible problems that could arise through genetics as was possible. I thought I could stop the tendencies found in my extended family by being vigilant. I could not prevent the anxiety all my daughters suffer from or prevent my oldest daughter from becoming depressed and an alcoholic at 14. My family is full of very talented people who for some reason lack the desire to succeed or become so anxious they choose not to try. I wouldn't have believed it was natural 20 years ago and thought my parents missed instilling something in us. But they didn't. And yes, all of the children are gifts and have gifts to offer this world. It is up to us to show them this, support them and Love them. And pray!

Hope you all have a Peaceful Holiday weekend: )

Ian & Ruby said...

I wholeheartedly agree! I too thought that I could make a difference - that a loving home, a supportive environment, would make a difference. We fostered R at 4 days old; both her parents had been diagnosed with mental illnesses, and we did our best to see that she had opportunities for outlets for the energy (hyper) that she displayed as a child. We did not see the depressive side until she was about 10, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. By the time she hit puberty, she was diagnosed with bipolar. I was devastated, as I felt I had failed her, but have grown to realise that nothing I could do would have made a difference. Our other foster child came from a background of drug and alcohol abuse and no pre-natal care; she has spina bifida, hydrocephalus, severe brain malformation, and an encysted fourth ventricle which is pressing on her brainstem, which has also atrophied. Although we can medicate her for pain, anxiety and epilepsy, we cannot change the genetic factors that are her make up. So with both of our daughters, we endeavour to love them, to provide boundaries, and opportunities to fulfil their potention. I continue to keep you and your girls in my prayers, that their lives may be changed by the love and guidance you give them; that they may be willing to accept that love, and allow their hearts to sing!

Struggling to Stand said...

I just have to correct something -- one takes folic acid to lower the chances of spina bifida. Vitamin C may do other good things, but to my knowledge there is no direct link between Vit C and spina bifida. OTOH, if you or someone you are close to is thinking of conceiving a child, FOLIC ACID. It doesn't prevent all cases, but it does prevent some. Folic acid is cheap. Don't use the excuse that it makes you feel ill (for some it apparently does). A few weeks of feeling ill does not compare to a lifetime of handling a child's major medical needs.

p.s. Hello to Ian & Ruby, I've not met you yet, I've been lax at reading GB's mom recently. I have a 19-year-old bio daughter w/ spina bifida and brain damage from an arachnoid cyst. (And of course, all of the physical problems you mentioned your foster daughter has could have happened to a healthy, drug free, eats right mother. Some spina bifida is highly genetic.)

Penelope said...

My sister has one that's ADD, one autistic, and one with a cleft palet with a speech impediment. From a great environment. (http://foster2forever.com)