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Just read this on Kottke

 

http://kottke.org/10/04/dna-vs-adoption

 

I know someone who adopted a baby and they have never told her that she's adopted and don't plan to (she's now in her 20s). When DNA testing becomes commonplace in another 5-15 years, I wonder how long that secret will last and what her reaction will be.

 

Is it ethical to not tell someone that they are not genetically related to you, and that the answers to "Does X run in your family?" has to be either "I don't know" or provided by the people involved in the adoption process.

 

I think not telling is a selfish act on the part of the parents.

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My half-brother was told that he was my half-brother at around 16, I think. Maybe it was 18. I don't think it benefited him. At least, when he told me the story, he didn't feel as though it benefited him.

 

From what I believe, I don't think that children should be told.

 

My father acted as the father for my half-brother (my oldest brother) for the majority of my half-brother's life. As such, my brother did not know that my dad was not his real father. But my brother believed so. When he was told, his world was crushed. My older brother also thought that my oldest brother was his real, bloodline brother. They would not have known otherwise.

 

My oldest brother is 39ish.. I think or he's 40. So, imagine being told this when there are still a lot of controversy about what really influences a child/adult during development. People still argue that keeping the child with the natural parents mean more than a good parent whom adopts the child. Being 18 in the early part of the 1990s, I guess.

 

But at age 18?

 

Still, I think, despite what generation, I don't think it's proper to tell someone at age 18.

A person is going through a lot of life events and stages.

 

A person has the ability to live an independent in life and the world and laws around him/her change. It's a very emotionally unstable time.

 

As such, I don't believe telling someone at age 18.

 

Because I hold some traditionalist views, I think family is important.

As such, a person should not be told that he/she was adopted at all.

I emphasize that a family member should not feel like an outsider.

But if you have to tell someone, don't do it during a time he/she is living an unstable life.

 

I don't think my father really knew what to do about the issue, and as a person of moral character, he probably decided it would be just to tell the truth. Then again, my mother could have told him the truth, too, if my father had died. Eventually, the truth would have came to him.

 

Also the article is bogus. DNA testing becoming common place? Bogus claim. People would at least need to draft me or get a court order.

Edited by Genecks
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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 4 weeks later...

I believe they should be told for medical reasons.

 

Yes there is an argument for moral reasons where they would have the possibility of feeling ostricised from the family but to me this is insignificant if the family treats them no differently.

 

If the adopted were to fall ill, and say requires a bone marrow transplant or similar then the likelyhood of a family member being a donor is incredibly slim and they'd likley find out then.

 

Better to tell them at a young age so that if anything does crop up they will know where they stand.

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Doesn't the fear that a child will react badly reinforce the negative stigma? If there was a stigma around children born on a full moon, and a parent waited until they were old enough to "handle" it, and told them with great trepidation and strain, while reassuring them that they aren't loved any less for it... the kid would probably find the fact confusing and disturbing.

 

Since it's already a stigma in society (almost because everyone thinks it shouldn't be) I can see some value in timing, but I also think for medical reasons it's important for a kid to know eventually.

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  • 2 months later...

I think that parents of adopted children should tell their children they're adopted as soon as possible.

 

At the age of 18 is, in my opinion, too late. I think that if a child is told it is adopted, the acceptance will be better.

 

 

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That's unfair on the child. It should be told to the child at an age when they can understand. Not at 20, he/she won't take it well at all. I guess the love from the mother is a good excuse, however it really should have been done before he/she left school. It must be hard/confusing being brought up by two completely different people to yourself - I can relate to my father, as he is of the same blood. If I had a different father I would 100% notice the differences. I would probably be the one asking "Am I adopted?" It's nice of them to adopt, and it really shouldn't be treated as something bad, but rather somethinng loving and good. I wouldn't mind being adopted, I would respect and love my parents exactly the same - protective, caring, etc. It wouldn't make a difference - although I would like to know what happend to my biological parents, to understand more about myself.

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I say raise them with the knowledge. When they ask where babies come from (or even before they ask), give two answers, and tell them which one applies to them. Don't say "and there's nothing wrong with that/and I love you just as much," because that just makes it seem like there is a stigma. If it's totally normal, it shouldn't occur to you that you might not love them just as much or whatever, so there's no need to say it. Don't wait to some later time (like age 18) to tell them - if there is nothing wrong with it, why were you keeping it a secret?

 

I think when people get upset when they find out they're adopted, it's because they feel deceived, and because they feel they have to change how they think about themselves and their relationship with their parents, and because there is supposedly a stigma. None of those would be a problem if you tell them from the beginning and don't treat it as anything unusual.

 

So, there are no good reasons not to tell them. But are there reasons to tell them? Yes. I agree with the OP that it is unethical to effectively deceive your children about their own medical history. It's also just a generally mean thing to do, since they will probably find out eventually anyway, and at that point it could be devastating.

 

It must be hard/confusing being brought up by two completely different people to yourself - I can relate to my father, as he is of the same blood. If I had a different father I would 100% notice the differences.

 

Since almost nobody figures out they're adopted without being told or discovering concrete evidence, I really don't think that's true.

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Would you not notice the differences in yourself to your parents? My Dad acts a lot like me and I wasn't brought up by him. My grandparents brought me up, my mothers side of the family. My dad enjoys the stuff I enjoy and he thinks the same why I do. I'd notice the difference, maybe it's not the same with everyone.

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My half-brother was told that he was my half-brother at around 16, I think. Maybe it was 18. I don't think it benefited him. At least, when he told me the story, he didn't feel as though it benefited him.

My sister was being told from the very beginning (though it's not so very clear what "the very beginning" is, given it turned out not to be the super important point that everyone bothered about all the time). It never was a real issue which I -from my experience, though- do not find too surprising, considering it's not a real issue.

From what I believe, I don't think that children should be told.

I can certainly understand that you're drawing that conclusion from your experiences. For me, combining it with mine, it's really just an additional argument to tell children from the very start.

 

Let me comment on some semi-randomly picked statements of your post, too:

Because I hold some traditionalist views, I think family is important. As such, a person should not be told that he/she was adopted at all.
I completely disagree with the inherent notion that only someone with a certain amount of gene-match can be considered part of the family (hell, some people even consider their dog being part of the family).

 

I emphasize that a family member should not feel like an outsider. But if you have to tell someone, don't do it during a time he/she is living an unstable life.

Oh, I agree on the 2nd sentence. The point about being honest about adoption from the very start is that being adopted is natural from the very beginning then and that there's no reason for the adopted child to feel like an outsider.

 

I also find it strange that you call your brother (in the sense that you legally have the same parents and probably were raised together) your half-brother; would never occur to me to call my sister that (even though technically she'd probably qualify as a quarter-sister). Is that due to the context of the thread (i.e. to emphasize that he's adopted) or is that what you normally label him?

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I think it's best to tell a child as soon as they able to understand that concept preferably during the the phase when they are working out who is part of their 'clan'. If they are told much later long after this formative period I think they are likely to become unnecessarily disturbed because that 'family map' they had constructed all those years earlier was riddled with major lies caused by omissions or misinformation on the part of those they had grown to trust. In effect you give them a double whammy because 1) you've lied and 2) they aren't related to you. And the fact you aren't their genetic family compounds the problem even more because there isn't this sense of a 'blood' connection which normally has a buffer effect in the usual cases of dischord between genetically connected family members....you might fall out in a big way but you always know you are 'tied'to them by genetics.

 

The relationship with an adopted child is much more reliant on trust and must be maintained at all times...best to start their life with the truth. I think the pain of knowing you've been the victim of a sustained lie is far worse than finding you are not related to someone but still loved. I find children take things as they are very quickly but teenagers will mull and ruminate for a long time and it's not very considerate to tell them at such a demanding time when everything about themselves is rapidly changing anyway without this revelation.

Edited by StringJunky
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Is it unethical to not tell an adopted child that they are adopted? Yes, either you are withholding the information from your child, or you are lying to them about their heritage. Regardless of what the parents might think the fact the child is adopted is part of that child's life, and to distort it by not telling them they are adopted is wrong and unethical.

 

That being said I do think the conversation on being adopted must be broached at the proper time and place. However, in my opinion the correct time to explain to a child that they are adopted is as soon as they are capable of comprehend what is going on. This way the child and parents can move beyond this and create the strong bonds of love and trust that children form with their parents at an early age. The problem with waiting till a child is older is that by they time child finds out they have already begun to create an identity of who they are, and by breaking the news that they are adopted it makes them feel as if the part of their life has been a lie.

 

My cousin was adopted and my Aunt and Uncle informed her at a very young age of this. This has allowed them to move beyond the issue of her adoption. In fact the day she was adopted has become a sort of second birthday were they celebrate the day my cousin came into my family, and how important she is to us.

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Is that due to the context of the thread (i.e. to emphasize that he's adopted) or is that what you normally label him?

 

Context of the thread. Also, by saying family is important, I mean that people should feel like a family without thinking about genetics and bloodlines as determining factors.

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I cannot say whether or not it is ethical not to tell someone that they are adopted, I can only state my thoughts on the topic and maybe by the end of the discussion/debate, I will have found a definitive answer. I do however believe that it is better for the adopted child to find out from the adoptive parents before the child can find out from somewhere or someone else. Even obtaining a copy of your birth certificate runs the risk of finding out that you are adopted.

 

To get a birth certificate (at least in Australia) you need to have certain birth details, such as either the names of the birth parents (or at least one of them) and if not, the adoption paperwork. When I applied for my birth certificate, I had to be 16 before I was eligible to apply for my birth certificate and that was with my mother signing certain parts of the application. At the time, a person had to be eighteen, the age of a legal adult in Australia, to apply without a parent being involved. Here, birth documents can form a vital part of identification for a large number of things from a bank account to a drivers license, to a line of credit.

 

For parents who choose not to tell their child that he or she is adopted, with so many genetic problems, it is important to at least obtain the birth parents complete medical history if possible, even in a country where you don't require birth or adoption papers as part of the identification process to get a driver's license, credit card, etc.

 

Over the years, I known a number of people who have been adopted and from talking to a couple of them, I have found that how the adopted person takes the news depends entirely on how they found out. One found out as a teenager and felt betrayed by her parents and that she had lived her life as a lie. She was angry with her parents for lying to her by omission. She also felt abandoned by her birth parents, which led her to a large number of self esteem issues.

 

The other found out as soon as she was old enough to understand. The way she was told made her feel special and wanted, so never gave her birth parents another thought until she wanted to know her medical history. I am no longer in contact with either of these women, but I have always remembered her story of how she was told she was adopted. They told her that they wanted to be a mummy and a daddy but they wanted a very special someone to love. So they looked and looked until they found her and they knew she was the special someone they were looking for. Even as an adult telling me this memory, she was smiling as if the idea still made her feel good.

 

Genecks,

 

My father acted as the father for my half-brother (my oldest brother) for the majority of my half-brother's life. As such, my brother did not know that my dad was not his real father. But my brother believed so. When he was told, his world was crushed. My older brother also thought that my oldest brother was his real, bloodline brother. They would not have known otherwise.

 

I can completely empathise with your brother. I was told that I had a different father than that of my sisters and brothers at age eleven. It wasn't an easy thing to learn, but over time, I learnt that just because we have different father, it doesn't mean we are not the same family. We all share our mother's bloodline and as such are still real bloodline brothers and sisters, we just only share a part of our bloodlines. You and your half-brother are still blodline brothers through the bloodline of the parent you share. Nothing has change except the perception that you had. A person's true parents are those who did the hard work and raised the person, not the people who donated the genetic material. Biology only goes so far, the rest is how we grow and who guides that growth.

 

As to DNA testing, in some respects it is already well on the way to becoming commonplace. That does not mean that everyone will automatically be tested, it simply means that it will be available to anyone who wants it. Already if you can pay for it, you can get your DNA tested in some places. Though I would imagine that you would have to have a specific reason in mind before such a test would be performed.

 

Thankyou for listening

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