I was reading this article in Science News and thought about the trauma that adoptees suffer.
Jenny Tung, an Evolutionary Anthropologist at Duke University asks – “Why when you don’t have the right sort of social connections, why does your risk of death just shoot up? And, What’s the consequence of chronic social stress?” Not that she answered those questions but posed them.
As the child of 2 adoptees, I have wondered about how their stressors impacted the genes they passed down to me. Some studies have indicated an ability to inherit these stress affected genes.
My husband also shared with me an article in The Guardian – “Families separated at border under Trump suffering severe trauma” according to a study by the Physicians for Human Rights, a first analysis on mental health effects. These effects have endured even after they were reunited.
Adoptees in reunion with their original families can probably relate. For myself, one simply can’t recover the kind of relationship they would have had with these people decades later. The lack of family history between us is permanently damaging to a familial sense. However, it is possible to attempt to build some kind of good relationship, it simply won’t be as close as if one had been around the people all their lives.
Between 2017 and 2018, the US government under Trump’s direction separated more than 5,000 children – the youngest just four months old – from their parents as an act of deterrence to other would-be asylum seekers fleeing violence and persecution in Central America.
The study group comprised asylum seekers from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and included 19 parents and 12 children of whom the youngest was six at the time they were wrenched from their families. The experts included psychologists, psychiatrists and pediatricians. The most common conditions were post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety. The most shocking finding was that severe psychological distress continued in some cases long after parents and children had been brought back together. A Guatemalan girl aged six was suffering from PTSD a year after she had been reunited with her parents, while an eight-year-old boy displayed severe symptoms of PTSD and separation anxiety two years later.
The clinicians recorded a range of symptoms that frequently arise following traumatic experiences, including feelings of confusion and panic, depression, frequent crying, nightmares and other sleep problems, and loss of appetite. Among the children, several displayed regressive behavior such as crying, clinging to parents or caregivers, incontinence and uncontrollable fear. The overall conclusion of this study was that US officials intentionally inflicted severe pain and suffering on Central American asylum seekers in order to punish and coerce them not to pursue asylum claims. The report said that the actions of US immigration agents amounted to torture and cruel and inhumane treatment as defined under international law.
None of these findings will be surprising to adult adoptees.
“This analysis shows the trauma and agony endured by parents and children who were forcefully separated from one another, and the compounding toll that trauma takes on both mental and physical health, lingers with these individuals for weeks, months and years after they’ve been reunited,” said Ranit Mishori, PHR’s senior medical adviser and co-author of the study. PHR said that its study underlined the urgent need for mental health treatment for the parents and children.