Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Biology Matters

Last night I watched the premiere of the new ABC show, "Find My Family." The show helps people find family members that they have lost contact with, such as adopted children, biological fathers, sisters, etc.

Last night's episode was about a couple who wanted to find their first daughter, who they had given up for adoption when they were teenagers. She is now 29-years-old and the parents had been searching for her for the last 9 years. They were reunited with her at the end of the show.

I grew up with my own two parents, so I don't know what it is like to know that you have close biological relatives out there somewhere that you have never met. But the truth that emerged from the tear-filled show last night is that biology matters.

Here were people who had never met before, yet they all had a powerful, undeniable urge to be connected with others who are a part of them. The daughter wanted to know where she came from; to know "who she was." The parents wanted to know the child they had created together; they wanted to see that part of them that would live on after they are gone.

It is important to note that this is not a criticism of adoption - the daughter had been adopted by two loving parents who cared for her and gave her a good life. Adoption is a wonderful thing. But the fact that she did have such a positive upbringing with her adoptive parents is actually further evidence of the power of biology - she still wanted to know her true parents and have a relationship with them despite her great relationship with her adoptive parents.

From NFI's perspective, the show demonstrated why father absence matters. As Roland Warren, NFI's president is fond of saying, "Children have a hole in their soul in the shape of their father." Again, people want to know where they came from, as it helps them define who they are. Father absence makes that task all the more difficult.

In the previews of upcoming episodes, you hear people saying things like, "A part of me was missing that I needed to fill." Surely, we don't fully understand what is happening here, but clearly, people continue to ask that age old question, "Who am I?" In a culture that would downplay the importance of biology in defining family, this show was a powerful reminder that you can't deny DNA.


  1. Overall I agree with you, except for this part:

    "But the fact that she did have such a positive upbringing with her adoptive parents is actually further evidence of the power of biology - she still wanted to know her true parents and have a relationship with them despite her great relationship with her adoptive parents."

    The word "despite" in the last sentence should be replaced with BECAUSE. I have worked with adopted children, and some adoptive parents are very insecure and get angry and upset if the child ever wonders about their origins. I've seen some essentially guilt trip and intimidate the child into being ashamed for having those questions.

    On the other hand, there are many adoptive parents, such as the young lady's last night, who acknowledge her curiosity and need to find those answers, who don't make her feel like she's a bad person for wanting those answers (my favorite part was how they prayed for her birth mother every night).

    The young lady was prepared to meet her birth parents because her adoptive parents had made it clear to her that they didn't feel it was an insult to them if she wanted to, and they wouldn't hold it against her for doing that. Only then was she confident and comfortable making that decision.

  2. I will preface my comments by sharing that I have a 1/2 brother who was put up for adoption when my mom was 16 years old (I met him when I was 18); my two closest friends were both adopted; my brother-in-law was adopted; several of my close friends have adopted one or more children; and my mom worked for an organization that helped reunite adoptees and birth parents. This to say that I've had the opportunity to learn quite a bit about the hearts and minds of adoptees (and the rest of the adoption triangle).

    I agree with the general point that "biology" is more significant (powerful) than what many in our culture make it out to be. Indeed, most adoptees will at some point express curiosity about their origins -- either out of a need to feel more connected to the world in which they live or for medical reasons. However, individual adoptees vary widely in the degree to which they actually desire to meet their biological parents. Many want to meet their biological parents, but never go down that road out of fear of being rejected OR for fear of hurting their adoptive parents (to "looneyrice's" point). Then there are some who simply have no desire to revisit the past.

    I, like "looneyrice" (see comments above), also take issue with the sentence that reads "... she still wanted to know her true parents and have a relationship with them despite her great relationship with her adoptive parents." However, my issue is with the word "TRUE." Since "parenting" is more about what happens in the 18 years after conception and birth, I would argue that the adoptive parents, who love and provide for the child and give him/her the tools to succeed in life, are the "TRUE" parents. This is to take nothing away from the birth parents, who in many cases (like my mom's) have no choice about giving their child up for adoption AND/OR make the decision to give the child up to allow him/her a chance at a better life. But, the birth parents end their parenting at birth. The true parenting takes place in the years that follow.

    I would also be careful about linking an adoptees desire to know his/her origins with father-absence. I suspect the data - if there is any available - would reveal that most adoptees, who are adopted right at the point of birth (see * below) and have an involved, responsible, and committed adoptive father do not experience the same outcomes that are frequently associated with father-absence.

    * The longer a child lives before being adopted, the higher the chances are that he/she will experience emotional trauma that could lead to the same outcomes frequently associated with father-absence.

  3. Thanks for the comments. Just three notes I would like to make:

    1) I was using the term "true parents" in the technical sense of "biological." I was not trying to make a value judgment with the word true.

    2) As I mentioned in my original post, adoption is a wonderful thing and the post was not meant as a slight on adoption. We are all for adoption!

    3) The parallel I was drawing between adoption and father absence was not to say that adopted children suffer the same issues as children from father-absent homes. You are right in that the research shows that children who grow up with two, married biological or adoptive parents do best, on average. What I was saying is that since biology matters, father absence matters, adoption aside.


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