A study on adopted US teens has indicated that despite being psychologically healthy, these adoptees are prone to a greater risk for emotional and behavioural problems than non-adoptees.
The researchers, led by Margaret A. Keyes, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, also stated that these adopted teens are more likely to consult a mental health professional, for help.
The background information in the article said that almost 120,000 American children are adopted each year and there are about 1.5 million adoptees under age 18 in total. Due to a decrease in domestic adoptions, the number of international adoptions has increased.
"Worldwide, approximately 40,000 children per year are moved between more than 100 countries through adoption. Despite the popularity of adoption, there is a persistent concern that adopted children may be at heightened risk for mental health or adjustment problems," wrote the authors.
The study focused on 540 non-adopted adolescents, 514 internationally adopted adolescents and 178 domestically adopted adolescents (ages 11 to 21) in order to determine if adopted adolescents were at a higher risk for behavioural and emotional problems.
The assessments were based on child and parent reports of attention-deficit/hyperactivity, oppositional defiant, conduct, major depressive and separation anxiety disorders, teacher reports of psychological health and contact with mental health professionals.
This resulted in adoptees scoring moderately higher on continuous measures of behavioural and emotional problems.
"Nevertheless, being adopted approximately doubled the odds of having contact with a mental health professional and of having a disruptive behavior disorder [attention-deficit/hyperactivity, oppositional defiant, or conduct disorder]. Relative to international adoptees, domestic adoptees had higher odds of having [a disruptive] disorder," wrote the authors.
They added: "Focusing on internalizing problems, teachers reported that international adoptees were significantly more anxious than non-adopted adolescents and their parents reported significantly more symptoms of internalizing disorders, specifically major depressive disorders and separation anxiety disorders."
"Although most adopted adolescents are psychologically healthy, they may be at elevated risk for some externalizing disorders, especially among those domestically placed," the authors conclude.
The study is published in the recent issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.