A comparison of hospitalized emotionally disturbed adopted and nonadopted adolescents

Emotionally disturbed nonrelative adopted and nonadopted adolescents in a psychiatric hospital were compared to investigate possible differences in the severity of their socially unacceptable acting-out behavior, and whether any differences might be related to age of adoption. Additionally, this research was designed to determine whether there was a significantly higher percentage of adopted emotionally disturbed adolescents than would be expected on the basis of the percentage of adopted adolescents in the population at large. Further, birth order, family size, gender, and diagnosis were studied to discover whether these factors were important in differentiating adoptees from nonadoptees. The medical records of all inpatient adolescent admissions of a private psychiatric hospital for six years were studied. It was found that over 10% of 332 hospitalized adolescents were adopted. As predicted, this figure was significantly greater than the proportion of adoptees in the population at large. A compilation was made of all acting-out behaviors of the study population. These behaviors were rated by professionals who treat emotionally disturbed adolescents. Each socially unacceptable acting-out behavior was assigned a number indicating its severity. No significant difference in acting-out behavior between adoptees and nonadoptees was found. However there was a significant difference in the severity of socially unacceptable acting-out behavior between males and females. A significant difference in the birth order of males and females was also indicated. Males were more likely to be firstborn and females were more likely to be lastborn. Due to the small sample size, comparisons of adoptees' and nonadoptees' birth order, family size, gender, and diagnosis were not possible. Recommendations were made regarding prevention and treatment of emotional disturbance in adopted adolescents.