When a child is separated from its mother at birth, the result is what’s called the primal wound. The primal wound refers to the trauma experienced by the child upon losing its mother. Every single adoptee experiences the effects of this trauma at one point or another during their lives. “The severing of that connection in the original separation of the adopted child from the birth mother causes a primal or narcissistic wound, which affects the adoptee’s sense of self and often manifests in a sense of loss, basic mistrust, anxiety and depression, emotional and/or behavioral problems, and difficulties in relationships with significant others.” The bond between mother and child is fundamental and heavily ingrained into human instinct. Naturally, the disruption of this bond creates many issues due to what is lost in the separation. The adoption triad includes the adoptee, the biological parents, and the adoptive parents; they all feel the effects of adoption.

A consequence of adoption often seen in the adoptee is an inauthentic life or the adoption of a false self. This behavior stems from deep within the adoptee’s psyche. It is a defense mechanism to prevent further loss and rejection. It does not matter if the child is given to its adoptive parents immediately after birth, there is still a bond from the nine months in utero. A child is not born with an already established sense of self; so it is believed that their sense of self is contained within their mother initially entering this world. When the child loses its mother, it also loses its sense of self. The child grows up feeling empty, life a part of itself is missing. Well, a part of the child is missing… its mother.

Upon entering the world, a child knows nothing and no one other than its mother. The child felt the love of its mother during the nine months in utero. It is said that babies are able to recognize the sound of their mothers voice, and her face. The child loves its mother, and the mother is supposed to love her child. However, when they are separated, the child naturally then feels the deepest, most extreme form of rejection and loss. The grief of losing its mother is with the child their whole life. The child grows up feeling inadequate, abandoned, and alone. They do not remember the separation so the child wonders what is wrong with him/her. They come to the conclusion that since they were abandoned, there must be something amiss with them. When in fact, this is often not the case. Nonetheless, the child can’t help but wonder why its own mother would give him/her away. The child sees it’s peers with their birth mothers. They often times resemble their mothers, allowing them to know themselves in their mothers. Whereas, the adoptee has no recollection of what his/her mother looks like. They have no way of knowing where they got their hair, eye color, etc. This often leaves them feeling disconnected and isolated.

To prevent further rejection and loss, the adoptee often times has trouble attaching to their adoptive parents. They feel as though they are imposters, this mother is not my real mother. No matter if the birth mother actually abandoned her child or not, the child with experience it as abandonment. Consequently, the adoptee is conditioned to be weary of others. It was abandoned by its first mother, this mother could abandon him/her too. All adoptees experience a basic mistrust that creates many obstacles in the establishment of healthy, long term relationships. The adoptee has closed him/herself off to others due to the initial separation. Adoptees with often times push away the people who love them the most. They are scared to let someone in, for fear of being hurt as they were hurt in the most primal way.


Chen, Fu-jen. "Asian transnational adoption: subject and trauma in life narratives of Korean adoptees and Gish Jen's The Love Wife." ARIEL, vol. 42, no. 3-4, 2011, p. 163+. Literature Resource Center, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=LitRC&sw=w&u=salt89600&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA301480434&asid=799aa2a366b895f9427ee0f7d57d9a69. Accessed 26 Feb. 2017.
Homans, Margaret. "Adoption narratives, trauma, and origins." Narrative, vol. 14, no. 1, 2006, p. 4+. Literature Resource Center, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=LitRC&sw=w&u=salt89600&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA166350427&asid=313b58fa7463081b72fadb46995216de. Accessed 26 Feb. 2017.

CC BY-SA 4.0 The Inevitable Consequences of Adoption on the Adoptee’s Unconscious Psyche by Sarah is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

13 Comments
  1. Holden 6 months ago

    This is a very powerful perspective on adoption that better explains similar stances on adoption that are often don’t go into much detail so thank you for opening our eyes to the difficulties of daily life often experienced by adoptees. Thank you for putting your time into researching this topic and showing the true parts of life.

    From,
    Chloe & Holden

  2. Sean Elliot 6 months ago

    Dear Sarah,

    I am intrigued about how you spoke about adoption. I never knew the consequences of losing your mother at birth and being adopted. It’s depressing how an adopted child has to go through this, especially some who is adopted right at birth. This is interesting because now I know why so many adopted children would like to know their biological parents, and it’s because they feel empty without them.

  3. Fiona 6 months ago

    Dear Sara,
    I am confused your article because I have an adopted sister and she isn’t any of the things you listed. She is loving and trusting and if she really had been traumatized by her family in Russia then she wouldn’t go back every year to visit them…

  4. Mahdi 6 months ago

    Dear Sarah:

    I am interested with your post, “The Inevitable Consequences of Adoption on the Adoptee’s Unconscious Psyche,” because…

    One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is: “It is said that babies are able to recognize the sound of their mothers voice, and her face.” I think this is correct because after so long inside the same body they should treat it like a heart and soul. Losing such will create a rift in your soul for the rest of your life.

    Another sentence that I liked was: “Adoptees with often times push away the people who love them the most.” This stood out for me because sad things make me sad and this is sad.

    I do strongly agree with you that they would have such pain because they have to see others with the love of their very own parents in front of them every single day. One reason I say this is because of the time inside their body. Another reason I agree is because of my addiction to Naruto and he was also like such.

    Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next, because sad things are often very interesting and hearing the background is nice.

  5. Sharmin 6 months ago

    Wow, I didn’t know how much trouble an adopted person might go through. your post was really deep, and it vaguely made me feel the pain that an adopted child might feel. The experience reminds me of me loosing my grandmother. I think you did great on this topic. thanks for posting.

  6. Riddhi 6 months ago

    Dear Sarah

    I was curious about this post because adoption is not spoken about often.

    One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is: “To prevent further rejection and loss, the adoptee often times has trouble attaching to their adoptive parents. ” I think this is important because people don’t talk about adoptions as often as they should. An adopted child is different from one who isn’t.

    Another sentence that I found was: “However, when they are separated, the child naturally then feels the deepest, most extreme form of rejection and loss. The grief of losing its mother is with the child their whole life. The child grows up feeling inadequate, abandoned, and alone.” This stood out for me because this rejection that the child feels can leave to depression. Not many people often think about what it is like for adopted children who have no idea who their mother is.

    Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next, because this was a very interesting topic.

  7. rakisultan 6 months ago

    One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is: “No matter if the birth mother actually abandoned her child or not, the child with experience it as abandonment. ” I think this conscisely gets across your message because it shows how even if the adoptee learns and/or realises that their birth mother did not abandon them, there will always be a lingering sense of abandonment because the birth mother is simply not there to quell these thoughts for the adoptee.

  8. Eduardo 6 months ago

    I am wowed by your post, “The Inevitable Consequences of Adoption on the Adoptee’s Unconscious Psyche,” because it is extremely interesting. I have always wondered about this subject myself.

  9. Miguel 6 months ago

    Hi Sarah,
    I see why it is so hard for orphaned children, they experience the trauma from the loss of their mother. I like how you said that a child and their mother have a special bond, I see how it can be hard not to have a mother you really wouldn‘t connect with anyone like you would your mother. The child can grow up empty that‘s why they need a mother figure maybe in other family members. I believe if they are adopted at an early age they could find that figure and they could recover. I like your article it really makes you think.

  10. Skylar 6 months ago

    I truly can’t imagine the mental consequences and struggles that come along with adoption, and I don’t think anyone can truly understand unless they are in that place, o its very interesting to read the research they’ve found on it. I’m curious to learn more!

  11. Emma 6 months ago

    Hi sarah,
    I found this very intriguing. I was adopted and I don’t think I can say I have ever felt a loss of myself or debated whether my birth mother or mother was my real mother. I believe that the woman who raised me is my real mother. You said, “When the child loses its mother, it also loses its sense of self. The child grows up feeling empty, life a part of itself is missing. Well, a part of the child is missing… its mother.” I found this to be a very bold statement. I feel like this is more of an opinion than a fact. I’m not exactly sure how to respond to this but I don’t think that it is possible to “lose a sense of yourself” and “feel empty” when you are adopted into a loving family. I personally can say I would rather be adopted into a loving family with a loving mother rather than stay with someone who can’t take care of me. Then again, maybe it depends on the child and the life they were brought into. I think there is more of a curious feeling that the child develops rather than a feeling of grief. great topic.

  12. Samuel 6 months ago

    Wow you have really changed my view on adoption, I am baffled. Adoption can be a serious thing, and people do not realize the effects it has not only on the adoptee but both families.

  13. Jessica Jenny 6 months ago

    This is very powerful. The effects of adoption on children are not spoken about very often in society today. I think that this research topic is bringing to light the trauma that is associated with loosing one’s mother. This is a great topic and good luck on your research!!

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