Parentood by Bond, not by Blood
Parenthood by Bond, not by Blood
According to Betty Lifton, adopted children are incomplete beings. They are unable to become complete well-rounded individuals due to their inability to find their original parents, or further more, to even ask about them. By suppressing this natural curiosity, a retardation in the growth of their psyche occurs which leaves the adoptee alienated from the rest of society. Due to a lifetime of "cumulative adoptee trauma," the adoptee lives their life feeling detached from society, as if they were only half a person. As such, Lifton suggests adoptee's should have the right to alleviate some of their pain by being allowed to search for their natural parent.
All of this sounds just and good, however, there is a natural bias which is put upon this argument. The generalizations that Lifton makes based upon her own experience and several case studies in industrialized nations leave several holes in her argument. The problem is not knowing one's birth parents, rather, it is thinking one should know their birth parents.
In nations such as the United States, there is a feeling that children which are adopted are shown more affection then adopted children due to the extra bond that is formed by blood between kin. However, elsewhere in the world (mainly Oceania), this is not the case. In several other societies, adoption is common place and, in fact, brings people closer together rather then creating a rift between individuals. By allowing others to adopt ones children, a bond is not only set up between the adoptive parents and the children, but also between the adoptive parents.
What creates the problems with adoption are the societies within which it takes place. In a society like America, there is a trauma which occurs when one realizes that they are not the natural child of their parents. However, this is only as big of a problem as people allow it to be. One must look at ties as a matter of kinship rather then blood relation. In America, an adoptee only feels different in so much as the society dictates that they should. Were it not for outside sources, the children could feel just as close to their family as any blood related person. As Terrel and Modell state, “kinship is not natural, but cultural.” It is the obligation of a family to make their children feel like their kin. Despite how much genetic connection their might be between individuals, the way in which a person is raised can create a far stronger bond then a supposed “natural” birth connection.
In many less developed societies of the world, it is the emphasis on kinship that makes adoption such a positive thing. In industrialized societies, the original parent feels a loss for giving up their child, the foster parents feel an emptiness for lack of a “natural” child, and the adoptee feels a loss for their natural parents. This is all unnecessary though.
In oceanic societies where having a big family is a problem, a triple bond is formed that unites the three people who would typically feel deprived.
The main difference that is within the oceanic society is that to find out ones natural parents is any easy task, giving how child sharing is a way of cementing bonds between chiefs. However, as is the case, there is no necessity for the child to find out their birth parents due to the kinship that is built by living with their foster parents. Unlike in western societies, the sense of family is built upon a base of “blood, food, and work” (191). A family does not simply exist due to the fact that they were born to each other, but rather, they become a family through their treatment of each other. It is only by working together as a unified people that the sense of kinship is developed between peoples. In so much, these bonds can actually dwarf the bonds presented by the typical “natural” nuclear family. While in western society, family is built upon assumption of what one must do for their blood kin, the oceanic societies show how the bond is created and further strengthened by peoples toil. As such, actual blood relation is meaningless, all that truly matters is the kinship.
Returning to the question at hand, it should be apparent that there is no reason for a child to ever have to ask who their birth parents are. All that birth parents represent are the means for one to enter the world. Rather, one should only be concerned with those that become their kin. While blood does create a natural tie between two people, that is no reason to believe that it obligates the two beings to be linked together against their will. It is up to the society to make a person feel like kin, if a child truly must need to know whom their parent is, there is more than likely a distance that exists between foster parent and child that stops them from being true kin, and fixing that is the only way to make the adoptee truly feel like a complete person.