The Effects of Adoption on Existing Children

Updated February 21, 2017

Adoption is a momentous, life-changing event -- not just for the adoptive parents and adopted child, but for any other members of the family, too. Existing biological or previously adopted children may experience jealousy or confusion about the adoption process. If you're planning to adopt a child, make sure you pay close attention to the effects it could have on your other children.


Younger children may not understand the adoption process and are often confused by the presence of a stranger in their homes. Perspectives Press, an adoption-focused book publisher, recommends that parents volunteer to babysit a child of about the same age as the one they intend to adopt. Care for this child in the presence of your other children, explaining the new child's needs, to help them get used to having another person in the household. This can make the transition to having a new brother or sister seem less jarring.


Many children become jealous of a new sibling, whether that child is adopted or a biological relative. Most parents pay a lot of attention to the new child, especially if that child has special needs. Take care to balance your time and attention among all family members. If you are adopting a special-needs child, explain why your adoptee needs extra care. Taking the time to discuss the adoption with your other children may not eliminate jealousy or anger, but it can reduce these negative emotions.


Especially in cases of international adoption, when the prospective parents must visit the adoptee's home country for long periods of time, existing family members may feel left out or abandoned. Even in domestic adoptions, the legal process can eat up time, causing loneliness or worry. Some families include their children in the adoption process to reduce feelings of loneliness and separation anxiety. If you intend to bring your children with you for an international adoption, go over the relevant laws and regulations first; some countries prohibit this practice.


While the adoption process can cause anxiety, jealousy and other unpleasant feelings in older siblings, these effects aren't significantly different from those that occur with the birth of a new baby. According to "Adoptive Families" magazine, adoption doesn't affect sibling relationships. Both adopted and biological siblings have similar levels of closeness and often share psychological traits. In the long term, adoption doesn't have a significant effect on the relationship between children in a family.

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About the Author

G.D. Palmer is a freelance writer and illustrator living in Milwaukee, Wis. She has been producing print and Web content for various organizations since 1998 and has been freelancing full-time since 2007. Palmer holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and studio art from Beloit College in Beloit, Wis.