Thursday, January 17, 2013

Adoption, Narcissism and psychopathy

I wrote at the start of the month here about the relationship between family breakdown, the individualist structure of modern society, and narcissism. I said there that there seemed to be conclusive anecdotal and scientific evidence that suggested a link between narcissism formed in early childhood, and the dysfunction of the parental unit.
 In other words, the perceived rise of individualism and the "me" culture in modern society I saw as stemming from the rise of the "baby boom" after the Second World War, and the erosion of the stable family unit/parenting skills. Thus when the parents themselves become narcissistic, the children they raise are bound be be at a higher than average risk of developing the same (or even worse) psychological disorders.

We know now that many psychological disorders, such as narcissism, ASPD and psychopathy, have their origins in early childhood. Narcissism (and psychopathy), apart from any biological factors, stem from an unstable and dysfunctional parental relationship in a child's first years. The issue is even more complicated when the child is an adoptee or foster child.

For decades, adoptions have been seen by many governments as the answer to the problem of unwanted children; either as the result of family poverty, rape, or any number of other social factors. It seems clear that as the level of social instability increases and destroys the family unit (as I mentioned in the previously-related article), the rate unwanted children is bound to increase by a correlating amount.
Adoption was seen by governments and psychologists as providing a stable family environment (provided the parents-to-be were properly screened) that allowed the adoptee the right environment to develop healthily. However, more recent research has revealed a previously-unexplored reality. That although many adopted children do develop normally, an alarmingly-disproportionate number of them develop psychological disorders - such as narcissism, and in extreme cases, psychopathy.

A closer look at the prison population, and the biographies of notorious serial killers, tells us a different story to the one told by government. Many of the most notorious serial killers were adopted children; and the proportion of adoptees in the prison population (and violent offenders) is significantly higher (as much as five times higher) than their proportion of the general population. The fact that adoptees feature so disproportionately in crime statistics is highly revealing, as well as an indictment of the how badly this issue is downplayed.

There are two contributing factors to this trend.
Because adopted children are severed from their biological mother, the damage this does to the baby had been previously-downplayed (partly because of the obvious difficulty of analyzing the psychology of newly-born babies). Lacking a mother's warmth is a huge blow to the infant's needs, and makes it more likely that the baby will become either self-absorbed or worse if not remedied quickly. So from the start, adoptees are psychologically fragile, even before we factor into it the prospective parents.
Next is the psychology of the adopting parents themselves. What is the real motive for them wanting the child? This factor cannot be emphasized strongly enough, and can make the difference between a well-adjusted adoptee, and mal-adjusted one. Adopting parents who want a child for the sake of their own vanity (such as to fill a void in their life, or as a source of love) are running the risk of making the adoptee's psychology even more dysfunctional, and making the likelihood of the child developing narcissistic/psychopathic traits all the more certain. Narcissistic parents and parenting makes the child feel like they are looking after two adult children. Such parents do not really "love" their adopted children, they need them, as a form of Narcissistic Supply. A parent-to-be who already has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is the last person who should be responsible for the upbringing of an adoptee. As a result, the adoptee's psychology becomes even more self-centred and narcissistic: the worse possible result. If the child is then not given a proper moral grounding either, the child can even develop into a psychopath.
Then there is also the factor of the social conditions of the parents themselves: adopted children raised with parents from a socially-deprived background, regardless of good intentions, may well do more harm than good. As mentioned in the previous post on this issue, social deprivation and economic instability can cause great psychological harm to the already-insecure mental health of an adoptee.

Set with the wrong-minded parents in the wrong social conditions, an adopted child can be akin to a psychological time-bomb. 

This is why emphasis should be put on doing extensive research into the motives and social background of the prospective parents as well as the child, in order to avoid such a situation. Unfortunately, the damage for many has already been done, as any trawl through adoption forums can tell you.

I explained in my article "Individualism, Narcissism and Psychopathy" how modern society has helped to gestate these psychological disorders. Social breakdown creates broken families; broken families create unwanted children; unwanted children can become wanted by insecure and narcissistic "parents"; and the adopted children's psychology becomes even more dysfunctional.

This is a vicious circle, and one that even the UK government is exacerbating. The Education Minister, Micheal Gove (an adopted child, with a personality possibly indicative of some form of narcissism/psychopathy) is eager to make it easier for parents to adopt children. The horrible irony is not lost here: that a man who was an adopted child, and possible psychopath, wishes to make it easier for other adopted children to become potential psychopaths.

Perhaps there is a method to the madness after all.

A more general description of the main attributes of Psychopathy, see here.


  1. Thank You Mr.Hughes for the educational seriousness and value in your writing, regarding the societal creation of a population of psychologically defective children who become adults. "The Adoption Paradox" is a growing problem, unjustified and horrific consequence.
    I am one of the Adoptee sociopaths trying to understand the complexity of the problem and
    what exactly went wrong to make me numb in emotional awareness.

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  3. describes the way i feel. im adopted, was bullied horribly in school, tricked to caregiving this narcisst nazi. yup. ive felt that way

  4. I was adopted by a Narcissist Mother and a Father suffering PTSD after being taken prisoner by the Japanese during the 2nd World war. My childhood was barren and scary both adopted parents had the secondary mental illness of alcoholism. As a teenager I was so disturbed I look back with great sadness at the legacy of not being enough, evil even. It has taken decades to treat my self well. However, I have had to abstain from some basic human needs like romantic relationships because I cant handle endings very well and I am not prepared to put my self through this pain. Your article is really helpful. Both of my parents are now dead and I feel free for the 1st time in my life. There is a way through this devastating type of childhood and adul-

  5. I have had the same ideas about the connection between sociopathy and adoption for a few years, and have not come across much on the subjects. I read/watch a lot of true crime and have noticed that perpetrators who were adopted seem to accour often. Sorry if my English is not great. But anyway, very interesting to read your post. The importance of a close relationship between mother and child in it's first year is key, I'm sure. I also wonder about how many mothers in the US are back to work 2 months after giving birth and also kids being raised by nannies.

  6. Thank you for writing this article. So many professionals dismiss this line of thought. I'm an adoptee. I was raised by a NPD mother, and a father who submitted to her every whim. He is a loving man. She was and is a cold hearted self centered self servicing bitch. As a result, I am a very messed up person, and the older I get, the harder it is. I fear I may end up doing something really crazy someday and I'll end up in prison. So far, at 49, I've managed to keep control over myself, but as I said, with age, it just get harder. Thank you again. You are certainly on the right track. Now getting other to acknowledge it will be a different challenge. Good Luck.

    1. I completely understand where you're coming from. Good luck to you.

  7. I am a "birth" mother, recently reunited with my adult son. Our reunion endured 1 1/2 years.

    I discovered that his adoptive mother was a narcissist, who used him for narcissistic supply.

    My son too, became a narcissist, clearly meeting the criteria for a covert narcissist.

    I believe that narcissist abuse is the natural consequence of using a woman as an incubator, and a child as a commodity to meet the needs of prospective adoptive parents.

    Both are used, and abused, to meet narcissistic needs.

    It's not wonder then, that the child too, becomes narcissistic.

    Adoption is a tragedy in the modern day entitlement community. Narcissism breeds more narcissism, so to speak.

    1. "I discovered that his adoptive mother was a narcissist, who used him for narcissistic supply.
      My son too, became a narcissist, clearly meeting the criteria for a covert narcissist"
      Sadly, this is far too common a story.

  8. My Ex was adopted by a loving family but holds extreme emotional resentment towards them. He is in know way loving and exhibits a lot of narcissistic traits. He was about 6 months old before he was actually adopted and was left at the hospital where he was born. Could the lack of parental bonding contributed to the narcissistic traits he now exhibits?

    1. "Could the lack of parental bonding contributed to the narcissistic traits he now exhibits?"
      There certainly is a lot of evidence to support this view

  9. Thank you Lee for this article. My ex-husband I'm sure is a narcissist. And he was adopted at 3 weeks old. He is completely damaged. It took me years to figure out his behaviors, and why he lacked empathy. Along with lying, passive aggressive, and covert manipulative behaviors. When he was born, he was immediately sent to a convent where he was held with nuns until they could find an adopted family. His bio mom held him once before he was snatched from her. His adopted mother, and he have a sort of odd co-dependent relationship. His father was verbally and physically abusive to the mother. Add to that his gambling problem. He has endured other things as well. After 6 years of being divorced he still tries to create drama with me. These articles keep me from felling like I'm going crazy!

    1. Thank you for your appreciative feedback. I recognise a lot about the issues you describe with your ex-husband, as this kind of behaviour seems to be a frequent feature reported by the spouses of adoptees.