Fatigue, Unmet Expectations Tied to Post-Adoption Blues
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By TRACI PEDERSEN / psychcentral.com
Exhaustion and unrealistic expectations of parenthood may contribute to post-adoption depression in women, according to research at Purdue University.
“Feeling tired was by far the largest predictor of depression in mothers who adopted,” said Karen J. Foli, an assistant professor of nursing.
“We didn’t expect to see this, and we aren’t sure if the fatigue is a symptom of the depression or if it is the parenting experience that is the source of the fatigue. It also may be reflective of a lacking social support system that adoptive parents receive.
“However, a common thread in my research has been an assumption that if the mom didn’t carry the child for nine months or go through a physical labor, the parents don’t need help in the same manner as birth mothers do.”
Other factors tied to depression in adoptive mothers include unmet expectations of themselves as mothers, of the child, and of family and friends, perceived support from friends, self-esteem, marital satisfaction, and parent and child bonding.
The study results are based on a survey of 300 mothers who had adopted within the past two years. The average age of the children at the time of the adoption was 4.6 years.
Research has established the significance of mental health problems in birth parents, particularly depression, as being tied to behavior and emotional problems in children. Being aware of the factors related to post-adoption depression can help plan effective interventions in avoiding these problems for adopted children, said Foli
Nurses, for example, working in a pediatric setting or in the mother’s doctor office, could assess for fatigue in adoptive mothers. It’s also important for health-care professionals and family members to realize that not all adoptions are equal, Foli said.
“Bonding with the children often comes up in post-adoption depression. If adoptive mothers cannot bond to their child as quickly as they expected, they commonly report feeling guilt and shame,” Foli said.
“These parents have the expectation to quickly attach to the child and they see themselves as superparents. But what happens when the child they adopt is a teething toddler or unknown special needs surface? It’s a difficult stage for a parent who has known that child for two years, let alone someone who is establishing a new relationship with the child.”
The study also showed that symptoms of depression were more common in mothers who didn’t have complete background information on the child, and who, after placement, was found to have special needs.
However, depression was not correlated with parents who already knew they were receiving a child with special needs.
“We also found that mothers of children with different ethnic or racial backgrounds did not report more depressive symptoms than those mothers who did not differ from their children’s ethnic or racial backgrounds,” Foli said. “Interestingly, these moms did report perceiving that society was less accepting of their adoptive family.”