According to research from Purdue University, adoptive parents often experience postadoption depression, which they say arises due to unmet or unrealistic expectations.
The signs and symptoms of depression include depressed mood, decreased interest or pleasure in activities, significant weight changes, difficulty sleeping or excessive sleeping, feeling agitated, fatigue, excessive guilt and shame, and indecisiveness.
"People often hear about postpartum blues when having a baby, but the emotional well-being of adoptive parents once the child is placed in the home is not really talked about. In this study, the majority of the adoptive parents who self-reported having experienced depression after the child was placed in their home often described unmet or unrealistic expectations of him or herself, the child, family and friends, or society," said Karen J. Foli, an assistant professor of nursing and an adoptive mother.
"For example, some parents shared that they did not anticipate that bonding with their child would be a struggle or that family members or friends would not offer the same support that birthparents enjoy," she added.
"Postadoption depression not only affects the parents, but it also has an influence on the well-being of the child," said Foli.
She interviewed 21 adoptive parents about their adoption and depression experiences, as well as 11 adoption experts and professionals.
"Many adoptive parents spend their time during the adoption process demonstrating they are not only going to be fit parents, but super parents, and then they struggle with trying to be the world's best parent when the child is placed in the home. Adoptive parents also may experience feelings about their legitimacy as a parent, or even surprise if they don't readily bond with the infant or child," said Foli.
Other factors that contribute to postadoption depression may include the expectations surrounding the child's attachment to the parent, a lack of peers, the lack of boundaries with birthparents in open adoptive agreements, and society's attitude toward adoptive families as a whole.
Adoptive parents are also tired by the time the child comes into the home, said Foli.
They have endured a rigorous adoption process and much of their lives have been out of their control.
"Obtaining that next form or checking that next box while waiting for the child can shift the focus away from parenting and emphasize the process of adoption," said Foli.
The adoption professionals who participated in the study said parents were often reluctant to admit their struggles out of fear and shame.
Parents also echoed feelings of extreme guilt and confusion over how they were struggling, particularly after their intense longing and eagerness to bring a child home.
The findings are published in this month's Western Journal of Nursing Research.