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Blum, H.P. (1983). Adoptive Parents—Generative Conflict and Generational Continuity. Psychoanal. St. Child, 38:141-163.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 38:141-163

Adoptive Parents—Generative Conflict and Generational Continuity

Harold P. Blum, M.D.


The adoptive situation is intergenerational; it involves the adopted child, the adoptive and natural parents of the child, and the grandparents, namely, the parents of the adoptive parents and sometimes the parents of the biological parents. Adoptive parents and grandparents and the adopted child form a communal network of interaction, identification, conscious and unconscious conflict, fantasy, and communication which influence the entire adoptive situation. The conflicts of the generations will have a positive or negative impact upon the adoptive parents' attainment of parental identity, attachment, and confidence in their rearing of the child. The reciprocal reactions of the adoptive parents and their own parents coexist with their fantasies concerning the biological parents of the adopted child. The natural parents of the adoptive parents may be more important in the adoptive situation than the physically (but not psychologically) absent biological parents of the adopted child. Becoming a parent reactivates old parent-child conflicts. Adoption may intensify universal oedipal and intergenerational conflicts and may leave the adoptive parent feeling unfulfilled as a person and as a parent. Unless the intrapsychic conflicts surrounding adoption are resolved, adoptive parents may feel disappointed in themselves and a real or fantasied disappointment to their own parents. Along with underlying feelings of castration and narcissistic injury, extrafamilial adoption associated with infertility may challenge the continuity and perpetuity of the generations. The identifications among the generations, the tracing of ancestry and descendants, the child's need to identify not only with the parents but with their life history and childhood—all are powerful factors which may contribute to the conflicts activated in the adoptive situation. The adoptive

parent may not have fulfilled the wishes of the actual grandparent or of the unconscious superego to procreate in the image of the idealized parent and to insure generational, genealogical, and personal continuity. The wish for concrete flesh and blood immortality can also be understood in relation to both parental and infantile narcissism as well as protection against intrafamilial aggression and death wishes.

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