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Farber, S.K. (2006). “Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child, a Long Way from Home” Complex Adolescent Identity Formation in a Transcultural Adoption. J. Infant Child Adolesc. Psychother., 5(1):24-45.

(2006). Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, 5(1):24-45

“Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child, a Long Way from Home” Complex Adolescent Identity Formation in a Transcultural Adoption

Sharon Klayman Farber, Ph.D., BCD

During adolescence, concerns about identity come to the fore. Questions such as “Who am I?” and “Who am I in relation to other people?” present unusual difficulty for the adopted child, who must navigate the complex developmental task of including two sets of parents (and possibly several cultures) within his representational world. Adopted children must also integrate the knowledge that they were born to one set of parents but are being raised by another. When the child's physical characteristics are different from the adoptive parents, this further complicates identity issues. Even when children have developed a safe and secure attachment to the adoptive parents, knowing that they were born into this world by a mother who then gave them away can evoke feelings of being utterly alone, bereft, and unloved. When adopted children enter adolescence, these feelings can loom large and powerful, derailing the development of their sense of identity. Presented here is the case of an adolescent in a transracial adoption in which the boy left his adoptive mother's home in a cataclysmic crisis, feeling alone and motherless, to run to his adoptive father, who suffered from major depression. The mother, too, felt bereft, and the therapist initially felt unable to help.

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