Narcissism and Adoption -- Very Likely Bedfellows

A pattern I have noticed when speaking with my fellow adoptees is how narcissism (narcissistic parents or just narcissistic thinking) can easily creep into adoption.  In fact, the adoption system is a minefield of narcissistic thinking.

What are you talking about, Lynn?

Stay with me here.

Let's start with a brief definition of narcissism.  I am not going to quote the DSM here -- we will leave that to the psychologists and social workers.  I am going to talk about narcissism in plain English.  These traits are common in narcissistic people or systems:

* lack of accountability, abuse of power and lack of transparency
* sense of entitlement
* lacking in empathy and ethics
* secrecy
* magical thinking 
* all about the image, not about the truth
* making friends with people in high places
* lying
* corruption/greed
*objectifying others for own gain

In studying narcissism over the past 20 years, I have noticed many parallels to adoption that it is quite mind-blowing.

Closed adoption.  Closed adoption historically had a lack of accountability to both adoptees and birth parents.  It was simply expected that an unmarried woman would relinquish her child, no questions asked. Coercion, guilt and shame were heaped upon mothers to persuade them they were inadequate to raise their own children.  Most were ostracized by their own families and places of worship and sent away from home to protect the family image.  Children were then handed over to "appropriate" adoptive parents (think money and status) and a large fee or "donation" was expected.  Adoptive parents told all of their friends in high places where the best agencies were and the cycle repeated.  Lawyers saw the potential of money to be made and some actively engaged in the lying and corruption, sometimes changing mother's names on legal documents.  Churches were also notoriously heavily involved in ruining family's lives through abuses of power.

But Lynn, what about all those beautiful children who found forever-families via a church adoption agency?

I would have no problem with church based child placement if there was accountability to those they served.  Unfortunately, even today, those same church-based adoption agencies are still covering up their past sins to the families they helped separate. A friend recently contacted me and is completely calling off her search for original family because of the nasty way she was treated by a church social services.  She unfairly carries the shame that the closed adoption system placed on her head.

Once mothers relinquished, they were expected to not call or write and to just go on with life as usual.  There was no accountability on the part of the adoption agencies to provide any proof or information that they did what they promised to do---find a loving family for the child.  Mothers were discouraged from asking questions and a shroud of secrecy covered what exactly happened to that child. It amazes me to think that the agencies of the closed era did not have the forethought to provide mothers with updates about their child's progress if for no other reason to give them peace of mind.

The lack of empathy for relinquishing mothers astounds me to this day.  However, there was a good reason for not empathizing with the mothers.  The private agencies existed not as a place to help children, but as a business to make money off of children.  The image was to "help foundlings" but the truth was, greed motivated these agencies.  It was no accident that a socialite founded my adoption agency (She wanted to find a baby for her sister) and it's no accident that Georgia Tann, corrupt baby broker of Tennessee, paid off judges to falsify documents so adoptions of (stolen) children could be finalized.

The adoption agencies then and now still have a lack of accountability, transparency and an abuse of power. As an adoptee, I am still expected to pay money to get just basic facts about my life that my agency is holding for ransom. I was desperate in 2006 and forked over $500.00 just for the chance to find out who my mother was.  There is something really wrong with that picture.

There was very little sense of empathy on the part of the agency that I was destined to grow up without any knowledge of my family and the reasons for my relinquishment.  They believed I was a blank slate because that suited them.  They lied to adoptive parents and told them what they wanted to hear ("Your child is just like a biological child").  I have the baby booklet they gave to my parents and I read it cover to cover.  The level of denial is mind-boggling.

Many birth parents carried a deep shame and had symptoms of PTSD, resulting in a domino affect of pain and secrets that affected their subsequent husbands and children -- and later, the adoptee, in reunion.  These consequences were not of any concern to the adoption agencies.

There were no follow up services by my agency except for one early visit to my parents from the agency.  No thoughts of providing updated medical information or informing my family that post-adoption services even existed (rare, but actually available through my agency). All the cost and responsibility for gathering information about who I was born to and the circumstances of my relinquishment and adoption was placed on me, the still-paying customer.

 I marvel at the detailed record my agency kept about my mother when I was recently told by a social worker that their belief in the the closed era was that NOBODY would see that file. Some agencies allowed gifts or letters but notoriously did not pass along the gifts or letters to the birth parent or adoptee.  But who knew?  Lack of accountability--they literally had nobody to answer to.

Closing and sealing files is an abuse of power on the part of government and agencies in order to continue to keep secrets and corruption hidden.  Many adoptees have figured out 50 years later that no adoption ever even took place after being told they were adopted.  Others were never told they were adopted and led to think they were the biological children of their parents.  Lying and secrets was a main staple of closed adoption with a side of magical thinking that everybody in adoption morphs into somebody else:

Adoptive parents give birth (according to the birth certificate)
Adoptees are "as if" born to (again, according to the birth certificate) and
Birth parents are absolved of their pasts and can start a new life

Joan and Christina Crawford
Adoptive parents with mental health issues

Narcissism affects many, many adoptees.  I have lost track of how many adoptees have told me their mothers or fathers were unfit to parent any child, let alone pass a  home study to raise other people's children.  But it happened.  All.  The.  Time.

There is a theory in the adoption community (and may be even proven by studies which I don't have at my finger tips) that women who are infertile and do not grieve the loss of potential biological children, are not in the healthiest position to adopt and should not adopt until their infertility is grieved thoroughly.   The reason for this is that any child placed in an infertile parent's home will serve as a replacement for the hoped-for biological child and heaps of unrealistic expectations will be placed on that child, who may look or act nothing like his parents.

Then there is another category of adoptive parents with money, status and a sense of entitlement that believe they deserve children.   There is a huge leap between "I want to parent a child in need" to "I NEED to parent a child for my own ego-driven needs and wants".

The latter is what narcissism is all about.  The child raised by narcissistic parents will never be seen for her own gifts and abilities. In fact, he will never be truly seen at all.   She will always be seen through the lens of what the parent wants and needs.  This is parentification at its worst.  The child literally morphs into an extension of the parent and will never be seen as the beautiful, unique person that she is.  If mom wants a child to be a famous actress, then the child will be pushed and forced to take acting lessons.  What the child wants and feels will never be considered -- only the parents' wants and needs.

It's a terrible way to grow up and you can just turn on your T.V. and see examples of it all over the place.  The reality T.V. shows with stage moms come to mind.  But most narcissistic parents are so secretive that even the neighbors have no idea they are child abusers.  They deserve an academy award for their ability to "play the part" to friends, family, congregants, and of course, adoption agencies.  They usually have friends in high places and many of them paid off doctors and lawyers to get what they want.  It still goes on today as there is a lack of accountability and transparency within private adoption, and now days you can even advertise on Craigslist for a baby.

I especially wonder about doctors who have taken an oath to do no harm who had no problem after being slipped some cash, to place a child in harm's way out of their own greed.  Or the Judge's who signed off on corrupt adoptions to make a few extra bucks.

photo credit:

Recently someone asked me what I thought about the term "Gotcha Day".  I immediately said, "I don't like it."  The person's face became confused.  I added, "It feels objectifying".

What does that mean exactly?

Well the root word is object.  Whenever I hear "Gotcha Day", I picture this kid on a shelf and somebody picking him up and yelling, "Gotcha!".  It's a similar visual when I hear "chosen" as if a bunch of babies were lined up side by side in cribs and a parent decidedly points at one and says, "I'll take him!"

There have been so many times I have felt like a pawn within the adoption system.  On any given day, the following roles are projected on me; however, they do not really speak to who I truly am:

*a beloved hoped-for daughter
*someone to make somebody else look good
*a family secret
*adult child of an alcoholic
*the kid who had the wrong father
*a minority but without the "protected class" to go with it
*the sister who will be ignored
*the sister who has "adoption issues"
*the token adoptee in the room

I'm sure you could make your own list -- many of these categories make me feel objectified as if I am not seen for the person that I truly am.   So what does this have to do with narcissism?  Narcissistic people and systems project an unreal idea of who you are on to you based on their own wants and needs.

So for example, you are just a regular guy who also happens to be adopted.  You get your original birth certificate in the mail from Vital Stats with your birth mother's name on it.  You decide to start searching for your original family.  You find them.  You open the door and then suddenly, you are bombarded with labels and assumptions placed upon you by the adoption system.  You will have people on all sides of the triad telling you how to feel, how to conduct your relationships, and that you are selfish or ungrateful for just seeking the truth.  You may get yelled at, shamed, or be hung up on or lied to. Your adoptive family may turn their backs on you.  You may be forced to pay lots and lots of money to your agency for information and to DNA testing companies just to learn the truth.

That, my friend, is the fall-out of narcissism and adoption in action.


  1. I do not believe what I just read! Although there are some Bad things which take place in some adoptions, I believe that there are far more good things in adoptions!! Why don't you look for the Good instead of the Bad?

    1. You don't BELIEVE what y just read. Pathetic. This isn't your story to tell. This wasn't written for YOU to reply to. You are not the reason behind the life long struggle this individual had and is going thru. Talk about exactly what this article says...

    2. What right do you have to tell someone else how they should feel?

    3. I believe it more than ever now. My little girl is a narcissist. We adopted here at age 7. She was failed by so many relatives and the system. She was passed around, abused, neglected. Stupidly we thought she was always happy. She appeared to be. We loved/love her so much. We didn't want to believe that her past could play a role in what was happening now. A beautiful smart little girl. Seemed to fit right into our family. She had severe attachment disorder, but we didn't see it. She loved us all, even her brothers. Through the years many things happened. It was sad but we couldn't put our finger on what was wrong. She manipulated and recently admitted she lacked empathy. Her therapist would tell us that she needs to know the world doesn't revolve around her. But we didn't get it. Our daughter is 19 now. We know now that her abandonment and need to survive, most likely made her who she is today. A little girl now struggling in the world with NPD. I wish we would have known sooner. But at least we know now. There is no helping someone without knowing what to help for. I can only hope that one day she will find out who she 'really' is. I do believe that we enter adoption with hope of a complete family or whatever WE are looking for. And blindly WE think we are giving a child all they need. Reality is, we do not know what these children often need. Why didn't they explain this all in our adoption classes? My guess is, they don't know either or maybe they just don't want us to know. By the way, our adoption was closed, but we allowed all contact with the birth families, anytime she desired, which wasn't often. I felt it the best route to take. Was I right on that, I don't know. I wouldn't ever take back our adoption choice. I just wish we weren't so blind to so much. We will always love her.

    4. I have studies which support this, Let's co-blog.

  2. So, you can’t believe that an adoptee should have to pay $500 for their own adoption records? Yes, you are right, bad things do happen in some adoptions. But what would be really helpful to me as being one of those bad adoptions, is for you to please not turn a blind-eye and learn from our unfortunate experiences what can go wrong in adoptions. Your mindset is why everybody turned their back on me as an innocent child when many knew that something very wrong and did nothing.

    1. JoAnne, your adoption is exactly what I held in my mind when I wrote this post. You deserved far better. I love and respect you plus I admire the fact that you turned into an amazing human being, despite your parents.

    2. My life was the same. Sold to an alcoholic & narcissist. I never stood a chance.

    3. My life was the same. Sold to an alcoholic & narcissist. I never stood a chance.

    4. I am the adopted daughter of a convert narcissistic mother. I am 44 years old. I have spent time in mental health facilities, self harmed and tried to take my own life several times. I have had and still do have addiction problems. It is only been over the last year that I have realized what and why my life has been the way it has even though I was told many years ago by a psychiatrist that as long as I continued to keep my mother in my life I wouldn't have a chance of getting better and moving on. I have only just learnt what a convert narcissist is and only just realised that my adopted mother is one. It's like a light gong on in my head when all I have ever known was darkness.
      Please please keep writing and informing and learning and sharing ur findings with people as no matter if people agree or disagree with what u write and believe it is so important that u continue to educate and help people like me to know the truth. Thank u Lynn Grubb xx

    5. Thank you. I have realized in recent years that something within my adoptive mom is broken. I feel sad. On rare occasions she manages to display a little bit of what for her is love. I hold onto it and hope is temporarily reignited, until a short while later she reverts to form. I feel sad for her.

    6. Hi Anonymous. My name's Theresa. I'm 49 & my experience is similar to yours. It's great when your Psychiatrist gives you push towards the truth! Our futures will be much better than our pasts. It wasn't us, it was them. Take care of yourself. Love T

  3. Excellent post Lynn Grubb!
    We can pound our head against the brick wall of secrecy in trying to get our records, money or no, and get nowhere. I feel one big reason for ''lack of transparency'' is protecting many from the truth of the atrocities done in separating mothers and their children. Another reason is protecting the adoptive family from the mother of the child. It isn't because of mothers hiding in closets. The majority aren't. That myth (the promise of confidentiality) is an example of the gaslighting done in adoption-land. I think the mind messing/gaslighting (the 'you made an adoption plan', 'you had a choice' when many of us did not.) is a huge influence on some mothers who refuse contact or redact their name. WHO CAN GET TRUTH PAST these lies and all the propaganda and closed records? I almost moved into that group of mothers for those very reasons. Namely you can't fight something this big, especially without the proof (our records) that we are not allowed, in most states, to have. Why aren't mothers allowed their own records? Since they only pertain to mother and child prior to adoption, who is that protecting?

    Anonymous July 9, 2015 at 10:58 AM, how about dealing with _reality_ in adoption? The power imbalance is extreme in adoption land.

    I'll find something ''good'' as you call it, about adoption when 1) it is done only when necessary (not because of some temporary situation) 2) done ethically 3) done with compassion and openness for *all* involved and 4) the opportunity is given for adoptees / their descendants, to have some ''choice'' in the matter of who --they-- are. They had absolutely NO CHOICE and no voice in this.

    It's time to give choice, truth, openness and AUTONOMY to the ones that adoption is ''supposed to be all about''... the Adoptee!

  4. Great post, Lynn. Coming from a narcissistic home myself, I identify with much of what you wrote. We many times do not even realize that we were abused! The first time I heard that about my adoptive mother's behavior, I was shocked, but yet readily admitted that if I saw a parent do that to a child, I would agree with was abuse. It is mind blowing.

    1. Thank you for commenting, orphanedheart.

  5. Well now! very interesting! but a one-sided perspective! Narcissism is not limited to one kind of personality or situation.
    You state here that ....Narcissistic people and systems project an unreal idea of who you are on to you based on their own wants and needs...

    From my understand...this applies to anyone! But, staying with adoptees... and adoption...I know that it was NOT JUST the adopted parents but the ADOPTED child THAT CAN became the narcissistic!

    A really good narcissistic adoptee is excellent at PROJECTING on to EVERYONE. Your list proves that it can apply to anyone! And let's face it...much of behavior is LEARNED BEHAVIOR.

    I am NOT narcissistic because I was not taught it. If the shoe fits...please wear it. And you know it's not always about the 'adoptee'... In any event, great article!

    1. It is true adopted children and non-adopted children can become narcissistic -- most likely from being raised by a narcissistic parent. Child abuse begets child abuse -- a cycle.

      It may not always be about the adoptee; however, this is an an adoptee blog, so expect to read blogs here from that perspective.

  6. The gap between natural mothers and many adopted persons is deplorable after mothers fought to expose the truth to their sons/daughters through a Commonwealth Inquiry into former forced adoption policies and practices - not all adoptions are as the terminology that has appeared - forced adoptions - the National apology was about those who had their newborn babies illegally, unlawfully and unethically wrenched from their bodies during birthing process or a short time thereafter - it is not about adoption as no natural mothers who faced these inhumane crimes were involved in adoptions - there was a pregnancy and birthing process - sexual and obstetric crimes - mother means two not a singular word so why has non indigenous adopted persons stood by their natural mothers - and be debriefed on their own truth? That is why we fight for a Royal Commission into the brutal and heinous sexual, obstetric crimes and abduction of newborn babies 1958-1975 in the Commonwealth of Australia - our truth will prevail and hopefully bring healing to many adopted sons/daughters.

    1. It does not matter as poverty is not a sin and when the husband gets cold feet and abandoneds the mother carrying plus her 4 year old from a previous marriage(Vietnam divorce)had to or die. 2nd husband was 10 years my senior and thought he would make a good father,(NOT) Look things happen and you cannot judge or you will be judged .I did nothing wrong but want my family.The hospital had agency their to make me sign the paper or I would go to jail??? I just delivered without anything for pain and I was not myself.No one does business in a hospital like that.Women were their to take my baby from me as they pried him from my arms.I was weak so don't think I was a prostitute,drug addict that did not work.I was the first flag girl 24 yrs. in Fla.!I had to my step father said no to us staying or the baby ,my mather made him take the just 2 me and my 4 yr old.I worked as hard as a man in the hot sun with tar.My pics in the news back in the day to back up my story.After I was made the 1st Survayor Girl in Fla Excuse my eye sight Glacoma!Only 67 please read uo alittle more as your right NO ONE IS THE SAME !!!!

  7. Great article! Thanks! Just found this site!

    I am an adoptee and was raised by a narcissistic step-father.
    It took me years to figure out what had happened.
    I was 53 when I understood for the first time that my step-father was a narcisist.Once I found this out, lots of pieces of a big puzzle fall in place.
    I was indeed just an extension of him. I felt, as an doptee, I had no rights at all!. I didn't understand it at the level I do now. As an adoptee and traumas of abandoning, you see now other way then to adjust in a very sick family-system.
    And if I did something wrong, lots of blame fell upon me
    I had two adoptee sisters, also adopted. But indeed no connection with each other.
    I abandonded the whole family in my twenties. It was tough and rough, but I feel it is the best thing I have done.
    Another problem is therapy I have been in therapy, but I feel like most don't understand adoptees nor narcism.
    Hence, the therapy system started me blaming again. I need to be fixed and there is something wrong with me.
    It is all sooo sick and I really wonder why I have made it this far.
    I do understand this is just a short message and lot of detaii are missing.

    But I can say this:

    The adoption system was a god-send for the narcissist.


    Happy 2016

    1. Thank you for your comments. I apologize for my late reply. You hit the nail on the head . . . .the therapy community is under-educated in both adoption and narcissism. It seems that many therapists are blind to narcissistic abuse and the special issue that adoptees face by a simple consequence of other people's decisions. It's really frustrating to pay for therapy and spend all your time trying to educate them! I gave up on therapists!

  8. I lost my granddaughter to foster people then they quickly adopted her.Men do not have right in that state.I was never called,notified.? The lady lied about her age ,about how many children were really hers.Boasted she had 18 including my granddaughter and then adopted 2 more due to her real family (my little Shelia ) had an older sisiter and a younger brother ,my son helped raise his step children .He was a good father.he's passed on ,I do not have any more communication on their speaker phone even though I am over 2,000 miles away and not wealthy like these people.They claimed to be Christians but on judgement day they'll find out that the commandments command us not to lie.I believe my granddaughter faded away from church.She was alloed to work in a bar under 21 and her Apeople curse,so I know I receive the hate letter from the Alady.One day the teenager now will get really hurt from the dangerous stunts wil skates and all kinds of wacky but dangerous stunts and not a professional.I saw a horrific video of her using her neck as a thing to jump over like the skaters do but a 10 yr old with bad sight and uncoordinated on his bicycle did the scary jump over a self made ricketkty board rail going up then down.I cringed.Nothing I can do about this disfictional family .I don't care if they hate me as all I did was send gifts and I was still lowered like an insect.She lied to my teen about how many were adopted as I have all these people and they added up to 18 and I was told to do the math as only 4 were adopted.OH I cannot speak with crazy people .They never admit to any wrong ever -anything and they are saints ! I know now I can't win and my teens brainwashed .Those people act just like what I read up Narcisistics !!!!

  9. My granddaughter is raised by narcissitic people.First lie was this hidden Day Care ,then they turned foster (more money per child) then they started adopting 15 or more ! /my son said Mom they lied as they thought these people could help them until they found new jobs.Nope ,these people had them sign that piece of paper .The takers got her at only 3 yrs old,she cried for months missing her mommy and daddy (my son and wife)I was never notified and this was a closed adoption .They had connections in that small town and the church was where they found many couples to come to this at first supposed day care/foster /adoptive forever theirs.My granddaughter got a job at a local bar ,serving beer (the people were in with these people I think .I searched for their open page and found this out ,so many things they do which are not what a court system would call best interest for children.They know the judge too!!!! I was sent a hate letter by the A-mom pretending the letter was from my granddaughter but I foind her out that teens and adult language are two different things.She was only told horrifying one sided stories and not to forgive even though they were all supposed churchgoers.The A-Dad is 71 and likes her teenage 16 bum -but he used another word like he was a pedophile.A-mom said kids made her look and feel young??? Their crazy and have brainwashed my granddaughter to hate me as the A-mom lost her adopted mom as I researched,thats why the A-mom said to me she did not like to talk about her past or her familys(secrets and hidden lies) .It seems that by now my granddaughter would see the truth through school.How do they find the open public knowledge for these people if she was finally told the truth by other teens This article you posted will help so many on the true side know how the ??people act and why.I sure do ,and many thanks to what you are doing to help so many .I SALUTE YOU LYNN Grubb Thanks for standing up for so many.Adoptees,even their blood kin in search and I say in search for a reason as maybe both sides will reunite .My heart breaks but I have hope even at my age 67.

  10. This was so powerful for me to read. I am close to someone whose adoptive mother had NPD and probably was a sociopath too. She was very much a Mommie Dearest. He endured horrific physical and mental abuse along with his adopted sibling and two foster siblings. The first adopted baby died under suspicious circumstances. And it seems that because she was married to a prominent and connected Catholic man she got away with the abuse. I asked myself why didn't Catholic Social Services investigate the death of the first child before handing her more children and why did the social workers not take all the children away? Why did the nuns not report her to the authorities when my friend showed up to school with a handprint on each side of his face? One of the foster children was eventually removed from the home, and it is suspected by my friend that this was due to signs of abuse. I am sharing this with my friend, who had no idea that this is such a syndrome. He has carried these psychological wounds alone for his entire life. Thank you for having the courage to raise awareness about this.

    1. Thank you for your comments. Those are very good questions? The only answer I have is that they were all in it together. The religious institutions honestly believed by the mere illegitimacy of our births, we were better off away from our mothers and into the home of a two-parent household. Do you think they truly checked out the psychology of many of these two-parent homes? Nope. As long as they could pass a basic homestudy (a history and a few references) and could pay the "donation", then they were in. Especially in private adoption, there was no follow-up. However, if we are talking about foster care, the social worker should be noticing abuse. However, narcissism is easily hidden by the nature of the personality disorder. Narcissistic people are great at putting on performances for anyone in authority and as soon as they walk out the door, they go back to their sociopathic ways. Appreciate your reading and commenting!

    2. I wondered what the screening process entailed in my friend's adoption. What you described is hardly an adequate screening! But I am not surprised. Yes, those with NPD are very good at concealing their true nature. So many adopted children suffer behind closed doors at the hands of their "saintly" parents.

  11. I should add that my friend does not believe his adoptive mother's story that she had a miscarriage and was physically unable to have children. He believes (as I do) that she was a sadistic pedophile who hated men and who did not want to bear children.

  12. Honestly anonymous - read up on it, study some books, sit in on an adoption support group meeting - There is not much good in adoptions (and some Babies are sold into sex trafficking and etc) and in almost every single case, a Mother is left without her Baby and grief stricken - You would not do that to an animal (not an elephant or a chimp or a lioness or any creature otherwise) but that is what you are doing to human Mothers in the Adoption system - and by the way - the people who buy the Babies (if they are good ones) are actually caretakers - not parents, regardless of what the paperwork might say - I think you had best do some research and fact check before you say what you believe and what you do not - Many thanks to Lynn for putting the truth out - it is important to know that the mythology of the cute Disney world of adoption is just awful -

  13. “Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.” The tide is turning and adoptees are speaking out. To those Commenting on how wonderful adoption is, read “The Primal Wound” by Nancy Verrier from cover to cover, then we’ll talk.

  14. I paid and pationed the court just to get social and medical history. I was married to an adoptee and our child had medical issues. When the papers were delivered the year of birth was wrong and stated I was yrs older than I am. The rest of the information was horrifying but I hoped that they had sent the wrong file bc of the wrong dob. I called the state home that sent them to be told it was the right file just a typo in the birth yr. My parents conceived me in the custody of a state home for the mentally challenged.

    1. Hi Melanie, learning about our histories can be very shocking and upsetting (which is why its important to have a support person or group when searching). You are not alone in discovering these types of realities. In my experience, I have seen really great, accurate documentation kept by agencies and courts and I've seen sloppy and outright falsified documentation. It's a crapshoot when you are dealing with the closed adoption era. Thankfully, there is now autosomal DNA testing. 10 Million Testers in Ancestry DNA as of this comment I am posting. Once a birth parent is confirmed, traditional genealogy can solve most outstanding mysteries.

  15. I work with an organization that supports orphans in a foreign country. Many were adopted here in the US so I have been able to keep in touch with a lot of them. I have to agree with you. It's about the parents, not the child. Over half of the kids I know are now estranged from their adoptive families. I'm helping another child right now and it just clicked that I am hearing the same thing over and over. Researching narcissistic personality and adoption is how I came across this article. Many of our sponsors are adoptive parents and for 15 years now I have tried to figure out what was so different about that group. After recently surviving the nightmare of living with one AND working with one, I read everything I could on the subject. Now I realize most of group have a lot of narcissistic traits. I've seen emails between the parents and child that are textbook narcissism. I've been doing a lot of research for the best ways to explain to the kids (young adults) that it's not them. I hope it's helping them heal some and they know someone believes & supports them. I'm not saying all adoptive parents are narcissistic but I bet over half are. My heart goes out to their kids.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience. I have suspected for some time that adoptive parents on the narcissistic spectrum are attracted to adoption for many reasons: being perceived as altruistic being a top reason (especially now that there is an orphan movement). I truly wish that psychological testing was required for non-relative adoptive parents. It is irresponsible and unethical to allow adoptive parents with personality disorders to adopt, considering you are placing an already traumatized child, and that child has no voice or way to protect itself.

  16. Add another because I found my 45 year old adopted son 2 years ago. My son's adoption was in Canada through Social Services. I was told they also adopted a girl of 2 when they got my son. Their parents never admitted the kids were adopted and were shocked when I showed up. Their adoptive parents died in 07 and I hope they are rotting in hell! My beautiful son is a narcissist. He was the golden child, his sister, the scapegoat! I have become pro-abortion and anti-adoption 100%.

  17. Lynn, thanks for your writing. I was confused by this line: "Many adoptees have figured out 50 years later that no adoption ever even took place after being told they were adopted."

    Would you mind clarifying please? Just trying to understand.

    1. Hi Damon, I apologize that my response is so late. That line refers to the people who were raised to believe they were adopted but then realized through when trying to get a passport, for example, or viewing their birth certificate, or lack of adoption paperwork, that no legal adoption ever took place. For example, in a black market adoption, the child may have been raised inside of a non-related family without any legal process happening. Another example is in a step-parent situation. A child is told they are adopted by their step-father, but learn many years later, there was no paperwork filed. So, they are "adopted" in the physically and psychologically; however, not legally. This poses problems for people in many ways especially post-911 vetting of document, not to mention dealing with the fallout of broken trust.

  18. Add another adoptee with a narcissistic adoptive mother. She was once a pediatric nurse who revelled in managing sick babies. After reading this, I'm pretty sure that she wanted to look good among her nurse friends, etc. I often refer to her as Nurse continue with the "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" reference, a lobotomy may have saved me from a lifetime of psychological trauma, anxiety, depression, a very low threshold to stress, and autoimmune struggles. My life has been nothing but a string of unfulfilling relationships and self doubt. Not unlike most of us I'm sure. If this isn't a human rights violation and extreme childhood violence... watching the film "Mommy Dearest" for the first time really struck a chord with me. And I now wonder who is holding the Catholic Childrens Aid accountable for this violence? (And all the other adoption agencies who for many years forced unwed mothers to give up their babies!)

  19. I'm 31 ... Adoptive mother can't see me at all. To her, I am "hers" ...

  20. I have been researching narcissism for many reasons and found your page. I'm both adopted and a birthmother or whatever they are calling it these days. What I have learned is that adoption affects the next generation and probably subsequent generations, as well.

    Overall, I have made peace with my own adoption because my a-parents are dead, my a-brother and i haven't spoken in more than 20 years. I eventually knew my birth families, mother and father are both dead too now. I just know that both my own and my son's adoption were not necessary if families weren't shamed into listening to people and organizations with an agenda.

    I found my son lost to adoption after 24 years (paid $2500 cash to a po box and got name, address and phone) and had a very good 8 year relationship until he died. He was a quadriplegic since the age of 16 (dirt bike accident) and lived most of his life in poverty. He died when his breathing tube became disconnected in the night when he was alone (trying to hire a new caretaker) and was found the next morning. A year ago, my oldest raised son, 53, killed himself over rejection by a girlfriend. He was divorced, had 2 children and his father was killed in Vietnam but my son had no memory of him. He tried to 'find' his father through Vietnam vet organizations but there is no substitute for having a father in your life. I have one son left who is 50 and he was a handful throughout his teen years and beyond, now has a good grip on his life. He is very supportive of me.

    Adoption is not the happy little story everyone has been sold for years and I don't expect that will ever change in my lifetime. I just know that it left lifelong scars on me, my sons and my relationships. The narcissism is in one of my past relationships and I'm shocked to learn how it affected everyone. As far as people who think adoption is great, I suggest they give up one of their children to adoption and experience adoption first hand. It is so easy to criticize from the outside.

  21. I am so glad I found your blog! It sounds like you went through something similar as my experience. I went no contact in 2006, but engaged with them again in 2015 and regretted it. It's been NC since 2018, and I finally started writing again. It's sad that there's still so little awareness about this issue.

  22. Adult adoptee of a narc adoptive mother and spineless father. I was abused and humiliated thru my childhood by my adoptive mother while everyone sat and watched because she wanted to adopt me so I belonged to her and everyone else busted turned a blind eye. I came into a an all white family of people who didn’t want me and as a biracial girl was immediately moved to an all white town. I suffer in so many ways to this day. I went no contact with that family so that I could begin to heal. That was 32 years ago. I still struggle with an enormous amount of shame and low self esteem. My adoptive mother still talks badly about me I hear thru the grapevine. I turned from a quiet shy honor roll student into a person who is very friendly and talkative, hardworking over achiever who on the outside seems very accomplished but on the inside is extremely insecure and who believes not only that I don’t deserve anything but that no one could ever love me. I am unable to have an intimate relationship and have actually never really had a real relationship with anyone of the opposite sex or anyone for that matter. Thank you for your article the validation means so much to us.

  23. Hmmm as an adopted minority of an upper working class to middle class white family with the dad being the narcissist I can confirm that this is really accurate

  24. It is so very valuable that you have put this idea into words into the public domain. Eloquently and logically written, you will save many adoptees years of soil searching. Narcissism can br hard to understand and accept. Well done!!

  25. elf on a shelf. thank you for writing this. this root link with objectification could possibly be why i have pursued objectifiers and the impossible task of ... gosh. so much. well, i hope it isn't seeking their approval, certainly seeking their healing. i think it is seeking to be seen as more than an object. first, i need to see myself that way.

  26. So very true. Thank you for highlighting this for so many of us.


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