Open Mike: Do parents love adopted children differently?

There's an interesting discussion on Anti-Racist Parent today: Do parents love adopted children differently? ARP is approaching it from the perspective of race based on some comments that Angelina Jolie made regarding her feelings toward her three children, and how her feelings toward the daughter born to her differ from those toward her adopted children.

But I don't think this question applies only to multi-racial adoptive families with adopted and non-adopted children. I think it's worth talking about generally.

Since both of my children were brought into our family through adoption, it's hard for me to imagine how I would love a child born to me, and if I would love that child differently than I do the kids I know. But what about the bond created at birth? What effect does that have on a mother's love for that child over the years? Or the lack of it?

If you have children of different races, please answer at Anti-Racist Parent and add a comment here letting everyone know that you did, so we can look for your thoughts. But if you'd like to add your thoughts here, too, please do!

And so, here's the latest Open Mike question, with thanks to ARP for raising it:

Do parents love adopted children differently?


Dawn said…
I answered it over there -- it is a great question!
Margie said…
It is indeed a good question. Thanks for letting us know you answered at ARP, Dawn. I tweaked a little to send folks to ARP as well, but thought there might be some who aren't plugged into the racial aspects and might be comfortable sharing their thoughts in a different setting.

On the other hand, these are issues that we all should be talking to, so hopefully lots of the comments I see will reference a comment on ARP.
MomSquared said…
OK, the whole thing about Angelina is really annoying me. She said that she feels differently about them because the older kids already had a personality when she met them and that Shiloh was still a baby/blob when Angelina met her. It's really annoying that it was reported as a difference between adopted/biological children and everyone is buying it. That's not what she said at all.
Margie said…
Hi, Mom2, good to see you online.

I agree with you about what Angelina meant, and I'm not sure I disagree. Although both of my children are adopted, one arrived at just under four months, the other just under six months. There was quite a developmental difference, and no question that we could interact more with our son, who was the older of the two at arrival.

But putting Angelina aside, I think it's a good question. Although I think most of the people who will answer are going to be adoptive parents, I wonder how first parents feel and adoptees feel about this topic.

Thanks for the comment.
suz said…
of course, i am not qualified to answer but i would guess some do, yes.

and I state this based on adoptees I know who were adopted and then their parents got pregnant. adoptees who grew up seeing definitive difference between how they were treated and how the "real" child was treated. i would not go so far as to say all adoptive parents would do this but some do.

also, i would guesss some do feel differently but would never voice that.

but to be fair, the two children i am raising are not adopted but i can say i love them both the same in QUANTITY but the QUALITY is different. what i mean is that i love them differently cuz they are different. they are different personalities, different tastes, likes, dislikes and i love them for who they are - and that goes beyond their gender, age, etc.

tough question and i would be fearful of the stereotype that adopted children are loved "less" becuase they are not "real"
joy said…
As an adoptee I look at it differently, not so much as love in the way we normally think of it.

Of course I believe that adoptive parents love their children, I do believe that mine love me, and clearly many adoptive parents love their adoptees MORE than their bio parents love them.

This will probably sound strange but in that movie, "She's so Lovely" When the couple is making the obvious bad choice, the woman is leaving stability for her unstable past and the Sean Penn character says something to the effect of , "This isn't about what is right or wrong, SHE BELONGS to me" That really struck me, above and beyond that the couple is also leaving their daughter with her adoptive father.

There is a comfort level that bio/raised children and parents share that adoptees don't. I think this often surfaces more as the child ages on the adoptive parents side, although obviously this is conjecture on my part.

No matter what happens between me and my son, I will always unrefutably be his mother, it is not a choice either of us have to make.

With adoption the choice to be in the relationship hangs in the air. The physical bond just isn't there, and the physical bond carries weight. I don't think that this cannot affect how parents and children relate. Even when they love each other deeply.
Gwen said…
My answer to this question is that parents love all children differently whether they are adopted or biological. I do not love all three of my children the same. I love them all with the deep love that parents feel but each child holds a different place in my heart. My children were adopted and my girls were newborns and my son was 3 1/2 years at the time of adoption. My bonding with him has been different and more difficult but that is because of the age difference.

My mother raised five children. Three of us are biological and two of us were adopted. My Mother and father have always said that they do not feel any deeper connection to the biological children than the adopted. Of course many would say that she is just saying that but I have had heartfelt discussions with her during the days I was contemplating adoption etc. and I needed real honest answers. It didn't matter to her they were all just her children.

Now we are all adults and yes there are differences between us. You can see physical resemblences and personality traits that are biological that the other two do not share. The funny thing is though that one of the bio siblings and one of the adopted siblings are very very much alike. LOL!!!!!!

So my point is...I think it is unfair to say that there is a deeper love for bio children because frankly I think it depends on the person and I for one could never have a deeper love than I do for my children bio or adopted.
jfsl/jwsl said…
I answered over there too.
DS-L said…
What does differently mean?

I think a lot of adoptive parents don't love the children in the same way the natural parents do. I mean that they wouldn't go through what we did for them. Denying your adopted child contact because you are too fearful is not putting that child first.

Then you have all types of parents.

My mother didn't seem to really love us.

I don't know if it's about adoption or about the person.

I know I could love a child that wasn't entirely my own the way I love my daughter, I know I would love just as deeply so who is to know.

I think the telling is in the behaving really. If your child is adopted and you make them feel guilty for wanting to search, make them feel like they have to choose then you are not loving as a true mother.

And the other thing is they already come with personalities, babies aren't blank slates.

Just my view, not written in stone.
Anonymous said…
I have five children. Two are bio and three are adopted.

I can honestly say that I love my all my children and that I love them all differently. Just like I love my mother in a different way I love my father. But I will also say that I think I love my adopted children in a way that is fiercer and is more raw and it surprises me.
Irshlas said…
I asked my husband this question as he is father to both bio and adopted children. I felt he was uniquely qualified to answer this question in a way that I wasn’t. Obviously, this is my interpretation of his response because he isn’t willing to spend the time to write it out!

No, he doesn’t love his children any different based on that criteria (adopted / bio). Much like several others have pointed out, parents love their children in different ways. Different children have different personalities. How love is expressed will be different based on the child. Hubby actually first asked “Define love.” His point was that he didn’t understand the ability to sufficiently articulate a response when everyone will define ‘love’ in a different way.

Having said that, Hubby’s overall response was: I loved all my children differently. I love the two bio children differently (comparing the two) so why would it be unrealistic to love my adopted child ‘differently.” He felt that all parents did. He cited the same basic ideas already stated here: quality vs quantity being two different things; different children have different personalities, etc. He also touched on the idea that many of the people who have commented have equated love with treatment. (I get it – actions vs words). I would suggest that just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want to be loved doesn’t mean that they don’t love you. (again, I know it’s cliché.) The point here is that some people get shitty parents. This is regardless of whether you’re adopted or not. (Did your mother treat you horribly because you were adopted? We’ve all known mothers who are cruel to their bio children because they are fat … or the father that hates his gay son, etc.) Again, I’m merely suggesting bad things happen to good people. It does NOT negate horrific treatment. I’m simply suggesting it might not always be due to the fact that parent and child were not biologically related.

Hubby also weighed in on the connection based on biology. His situation is unique, once again, as he has two bio children who have lived their entire lives on another continent speaking another language. While he is active in their lives (yes he speaks their language), he has still been physically separated from them for the majority of their lives. The point is that he has chosen to have a relationship with them. Most of the time the children have not taken an active role in maintaining this relationship and neither has their mother. In all honesty, he wasn’t able to spend any significant time with the youngest child until he was 2.5 years old. Hubby commented last night, “I might as well have adopted him. I had to build a relationship with him because he didn’t know me from a hole in the ground.” To this day Hubby continues to work on maintaining the relationship with both of these children. I asked him point blank if he felt some connection to them based on biology. He told me without reservation that there was none. Based on his experience, he argued that any feelings / connection / bond between parents were based on the relationship cultivated over time.

As an aside, both children have very close ties to individuals in their lives that are not biologically related to them. They share a bond with these people based on the relationships that were formed early on in their lives that have been maintained, on a daily / close contact basis. Do they ‘love’ their father? Sure and they will tell you that emphatically. Do their actions show that? Absolutely not. Not ever.

Obviously this is ONE case-in-point and based on my own personal experience. I’m not negating the feelings or point of views of others. I just felt like chiming in with my reality, as viewed through my DH.
Anonymous said…
"Different" doesn't imply "more" or "less". Not at all.

Absolutely, giving birth is a different experience from adopting a child. It's certainly different from adopting a toddler, as I did. But the love is as fierce and protective, and the bond is as strong.

The relationship isn't "different" in quality over time, either, in my experience. My family often forgets that we don't have a genetic bond to the child I adopted (not that that's a good thing and great adoption endorsement blah blah blah).

But obviously it's just a different experience to know a kid from conception than to have a walking, talking kid who becomes your own, and who has lots of feelings and memories that you CAN'T know about first hand.

I'd be interested in hearing how adoptees think about their sets of family, and how "different" those feelings are.
Margie said…
Thanks, all, good thoughts here.

I think what trips us up on this question is that we interpret "differently" as "worse" or "better," "less" or "more." But having a different approach to our relationships with our children doesn't imply this at all, in my opinion. It simply implies that we love our children for their individuality - and in the case of our children who came to us through adoption, that means we love them for their genetic connections, their ethnic heritage, and their first families.

Popular Posts