Adoption and the Ethical & Psychological Impact of DNA Testing and Results

One reason someone may take a DNA test or seek the services of a genealogist is related to adoption. It might be someone who is adopted trying to find their birth parent or someone who is trying to find a child that they gave up for adoption. Sometimes it can be someone who was told they have a biological sibling. This blog may seem like more questions than answers, but the questions must be explored by whoever is seeking answers on adoption questions with DNA. In addition, each adoption has its own unique circumstances and/or situations; therefore this blog is not an exhaustive list of questions or possibilities.

The primary question any adoptee has is why was I put up for adoption? Was the adoption the result of an unplanned teen pregnancy? Was it the result of an extramarital affair? Was it done because of a rape? Did the biological father even know? Was the biological family even aware of the child? Is a biological parent already a part of the adoptee’s family? DNA can’t necessarily answer these questions, but it can offer clues to discover or confirm relationships. It can also create unforeseen ethical & psychological issues or impacts to a lot of individuals and families.

DNA testing has the ability to find biological matches, but will those matches be accepting to the idea that you are related? Perhaps the adoptee’s biological matches think they are familiar with their genealogy and family history. This new information can upset and in some cases rewrite what they thought they knew.

For example, in the case of an extramarital affair, what if an adoptee’s biological father has a wife and children? Let’s say the adoptee as an adult wants to find their biological father. Their need or want to know may have an unforeseen impact on their biological father, who may not be aware of their existence. It may go further than just the biological father too. Did the biological father’s wife know about the adoptee? Even if she did, do their children know about the adoptee? What is the impact on all of them if this information is disclosed?

Time may lessen the magnitude of the shock of discovering a biological connection like this outside of acceptable religious or social norms, but it still might not be acceptable within a family dynamic or there may not be a complete acceptance by everyone in the family. Is the adoptee, their family or biological family ready and willing to be understanding?

Using this same scenario, what if the adoptee’s parents are still living? Do they know who the biological parents are? Do they even want to know who the biological parents are? Will the feelings of being abandoned or rejected if the adoptee pursues or finds their biological parents? More importantly, how would you bring the subject finding them using DNA?

Likewise, someone who gives up a child for adoption may face similar questions such as does the adoptee know they were even adopted? Is it appropriate to contact the adoptee and what is the appropriate age or method to contact them? Will the adoptee be angry, resentful, feel abandoned or want nothing to do with the biological parent? These may be reasonable feelings for an adoptee that a biological parent may only make worse by trying to contact the adoptee.

Pursuing a biological parent, as an adoptee or searching for a child given up for adoption is a very personal choice. DNA may help with this search. GenealogyChris recommends carefully weighing the impacts before taking a DNA test to help answer a question related to adoption. A genealogist familiar with DNA can help you understand the biological and genealogical relationships, but cannot always help or predict what psychological impact that it has on the adoptee, biological and adopted families if the true identity is discovered or found out by others.