Adopted Child Syndrome (ACS)


In "CHOSEN CHILDREN,", in the section of the chapter titled “Adoption's Dirty Little Secret: Adoptees' Outcomes,” "Adopted Child Syndrome — 'In,' then 'Out' Now 'In' — examines the theory and other diagnoses in detail.

Excerpted from NATIONAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM, NCJS Journal Abstract, "ADOPTION AND MURDER" (from Psychology and Law" p.274-280, 1997, Santiago Redondo and Vicente Garrido et al, NCJS 176632)

“…although adopted children commit murders more often than commonly believed, there is resistance to making an issue of this fact. This may be because of the secrecy associated with many adoptions and the failure of criminal justice agencies to record the nature of an offender's family background. From a legal posture, an adopted child is simply the child of his adoptive parents. …the psychodynamics of adoption are easily overlooked in forensic mental health evaluations.”


“Of the 500 estimated serial killers in U.S. history, 16 percent were adopted as children, while adoptees represent only 2 or 3 percent of the general population. Adoptees are 15 times more likely to kill one or both of their adoptive parents than biological children.”

Adopted Child Syndrome has been a successful defense in saving some adopted killers from the Death Penalty -- a theory supported by many famed psychologists, although not endorsed by the psychiatric community associations as a whole. Adopted Child Syndrome was first studied in 1953 by Jean Paton, an adoptee and social worker, and also decades later when psychologist, David Kirschner, coined the term "Adopted Child Syndrome" as underlying "Dissociative Disorder," in his paper, "Son of Sam and the Adopted Child Syndrome," (Adelphi Society for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy Newsletter, 1978) in which the adoptee reacts to emotional abuse of adoption with identified anti-social behaviors at various times, often not apparent from media reports, many of them being similar reactions to physical or sexual abuse.

No one wants to talk about adoptees who have obvious negative outcomes, including adopted serial killers such as David Berkowitz and Ted Bundy, nor the fact that even apparently successful adoptees have abandonment and rejection issues over being adopted -- such as the late entrepeneur-founder of Apple Computer, STEVE JOBS, who is quoted as similarly expressing "unresolved pain" stemming from being adopted. Both famous and infamous adoptes at times demonstrate anti-social behaviors, as detailed in "CHOSEN CHILDREN," which documents the changing psychiatric theories and labels pinned on adoptees to attempt to explain away their problems as being caused by them and which have often resulted in dangerous treatments -- such as "Attachment/Holding Therapy, and "Re-Birthing Therapy" that have even killed them, as documented in the largest collection of "Adopters Who Abused and Killed Adoptees" with sources.

In "MY ARMENIAN GENESIS: The Last Survivor" at - author Mary L. Foess (Judith Movsisian) exemplifies the adopted individual's dilemma of a dual existence -- one that demands suppression of pain from actual or perceived rejection while accepting as "normal" the abnormal status of one whose origins are secret -- and one that compels a search for normalcy of familial relationships. Mary's book lays bare not only her own feelings and admissions, but also the complexities of those who hold the answers to family secrets and who fear the proverbial "knock on the door" from an adoptee so obsessed by her need to know and to be accepted.

Forbidden Family

In "FORBIDDEN FAMILY" (currently out of print) - author Joan Wheeler (Sipple), an adoptee who is a social worker, adoption reform activist, advocate for donor offspring, and a suicide prevention and crisis counselor who has, for years, suffered clinical depression and battled thoughts of suicide. Not all post-adoption reunions are ideallic "Oprah reunions" depending on the degree damage done by adoption secrecy and how the parties react.

Wheeler revealed how being adopted by a family member as a "half orphan" and never being told despite other family members knew of their biological relationship, has been the emotional abuse that has dominated her life and caused her depression ever since. The book itself so enraged certain family members that, despite that names were changed in the book and the book no longer exists (is out of print), they launched viscious bullying attacks and threats against Ms. Wheeler, her publisher, AmFOR, and anyone else whose website even displayed the inocuous cover or mentioned the book ever existed, demanding that all mention be removed from Internet, just as adoptees are removed from their pre-adoption truths, despite that and other sites do not remove books but just indicate when they are out-of-print.

On 2-19-12, "CBS-60 Minutes" announced new findings that anti-depressant medications worked no better than placebos and so it is theorized that the mind alone can heal itself through positive thinking. One can only speculate whether anyone who taunts an adoptee (or anyone) known to be suicidal could potentially be indicted for Attempted Murder. - author Joan Wheeler (Sipple), an adoptee who is a social worker, adoption reform activist, advocate for donor offspring and a suicide prevention and crisis counselor who has, for years, suffered clinical depression and battled thoughts of suicide, reveals how being adopted by strangers as a "half orphan" created the emotional abuse that has dominated her life ever since.

Chronological List of Psychopathology Studies


David M. Levy, “Primary Affect Hunger,” American Journal of Psychiatry 94 (November 1937):643-652.


Sydney Tarachow, “The Disclosure of Foster-Parentage to a Boy: Behavior Disorders and Other Psychological Problems Resulting,” American Journal of Psychiatry 94 (September 1937):401-412


Edwina A. Cowan, “Some Emotional Problems Besetting the Lives of Foster Children,” Mental Hygiene 22 (July 1938):454-458.


Robert P. Knight, “Some Problems in Selecting and Rearing Adopted Children,” Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic 5 (May 1941):65-74.


Elsie Stonesifer, “The Behavior Difficulties of Adopted and Own Children,” Smith College Studies in Social Work, vol 13 (November-December 1942):161.


Houston McKee Mitchell, “Adopted Children as Patients of a Mental Hygiene Clinic,” Smith College Studies in Social Work 15 (1944):122-123.


E. Wellisch, “Children Without Genealogy - A Problem of Adoption,” Mental Health 13 (1952):41-42.


Portia Holman, “Some Factors in the Aetiology of Maladjusted Children,” Journal of Mental Science 99 (1953):654-688.


Bernice T. Eiduson and Jean B. Livermore, “Complications in Therapy with Adopted Children,” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 23 (October 1953):795-802


National Association for Mental Health, A Survey Based on Adoption Case Records (London: National Association for Mental Health, 1954 est.).


Marshall D. Schechter, “Observations on Adopted Children,” Archives of General Psychiatry 3 (July 1960):21-32.


M.L. Kellmer Pringle, “The Incidence of Some Supposedly Adverse Family Conditions and of Left-Handedness in Schools for Maladjusted Children,” British Journal of Educational Psychology 31, no. 2 (June 1961):183-193.


Bruce Gardner, Glenn R. Hawkes, and Lee G. Burchinal, “Noncontinuous Mothering in Infancy and Development in Later Childhood,” Child Development 32 (June 1961):225-234.


Betty K. Ketchum, “An Exploratory Study of the Disproportionate Number of Adopted Children Hospitalized at Columbus Children's Psychiatric Hospital” (Masters Thesis, Ohio State University, 1962).


Povl W. Toussieng, “Thoughts Regarding the Etiology of Psychological Difficulties in Adopted Children,” Child Welfare (February 1962):59-65, 71.


Frances Lee Anderson Menlove, “Acting Out Behavior in Emotionally Disturbed Adopted Children” (Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1962).


Michael Humphrey and Christopher Ounsted, “Adoptive Families Referred for Psychiatric Advice,” British Journal of Psychiatry 109 (1963):599-608.


Jerome D. Goodman, Richard M. Silberstein, and Wallace Mandell, “Adopted Children Brought to Child Psychiatric Clinic,” Archives of General Psychiatry 9, no. 5 (November 1963):451-456.


Marshall D. Schechter et al., “Emotional Problems in the Adoptee,”Archives of General Psychiatry 10 (February 1964):109-118.


H. J. Sants, “Genealogical Bewilderment in Children with Substitute Parents,” British Journal of Medical Psychology 37, no. 1964 (1964):133-141.


H. David Kirk, Shared Fate: A Theory of Adoption and Mental Health (New York: The Free Press of Glencoe, 1964).


Frances Lee Menlove, “Aggressive Symptoms in Emotionally Disturbed Adopted Children,” Child Development 36, no. 2 (June 1965):519-532.


Nathan M. Simon and Audrey G. Senturia, “Adoption and Psychiatric Illness,” American Journal of Psychiatry 122, no. 8 (February 1966):858-868.


H. David Kirk, “Are Adopted Children Especially Vulnerable to Stress? A Critique of Some Recent Assertions,” Archives of General Psychiatry 14 (March 1966):291-298.


Alfred Kadushin, “Adoptive Parenthood: A Hazardous Adventure?,” Social Work (July 1966):30-39.


Shirley A. Reece and Barbara Levin, “Psychiatric Disturbances in Adopted Children: A Descriptive Study,” Social Work (January 1968):101-111.


Marshall D. Schechter, “About Adoptive Parents,” in Parenthood: Its Psychology and Psychopathology, eds. E. James Anthony and Therese Benedek (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1970), 353-371.


Arthur D. Sorosky, Annette Baran, and Reuben Pannor, “Identity Conflicts in Adoptees,” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 45 (January 1975):18-27.


David Kirschner and Linda S. Nagel, “Antisocial Behavior in Adoptees: Patterns and Dynamics,” Child and Adolescent Social Work 5, no. 4 (Winter 1988):300-314.


David Kirschner, “The Adopted Child Syndrome: Considerations for Psychotherapy,” Psychotherapy in Private Practice 8, no. 3 (1990):93-100.


David Brodzinsky and Marshall Schechter, eds., The Psychology of Adoption (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990).


Nancy Newton Verrier, The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child (Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press, 1993).


Katarina Wegar, “Adoption and Mental Health: A Theoretical Critique of the Psychopathological Model,” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 65 (October 1995):540-548.


Joyce Maguire Pavao, The Family of Adoption (Boston: Beacon Press, 1998).