On the last track, we discussed Sharing About Rape and Incest. This included Early Years, Middle School Years and Beyond, The Word "Rape," and The "Tape Recorder" Technique.
Do you have a client whose relationship with his or her adopted child is rapidly deteriorating?
On this track, we will discuss Seven Steps of the Negative Spiral toward adoptive dissolution, whether legal or emotional. This will include the honeymoon, diminishing pleasures, the child is the problem, going public, the turning point, the deadline or ultimatum, the final crisis ends the adoptive relationship and the "Adoption Communication Survey". As you listen, think of your client. What phase of the emotional adoptive dissolution process does your client fall into? What interventions might you make?
7 Steps of the Negative Spiral
The first step in any adoption is, of course, the Honeymoon phase. Adoptive families typically experience pleasure and excitement at the onset of the adoption journey. Each member enters the relationship with high hopes and high expectations. This phase may last several months or, in some cases, many years if no major crisis has affected the family.
#2 Diminishing Pleasures
The second step in the negative spiral leading to dissolution is Diminishing Pleasures. The atmosphere in the home begins to change. Adoptive parents begin to feel tensions in their interactions with the child. What used to be cute is now irritating and frustrating. However, the family remains hopeful that it is just a phase. Often at this stage, adoptive parents do not share their concerns with anyone, thinking this will soon pass.
#3 The Child is the Problem
In addition to the honeymoon and diminishing pleasures, step three in the negative spiral leading to dissolution is the mentality starts to develop in the parents that the adopted child is the problem. Their relationship with the child starts to deteriorate. Every negative thing the child does or says, from tantrums to misbehavior, becomes intolerable. The interactions continue to spiral downward. The child senses the tensions, which increases his or her anxiety, which increases the negative behavior. The parents perceive this negative behavior as the child rejecting them, and the parents often overreact to even minor problems.
#4 Going Public
In step four in the negative spiral leading to dissolution, the problems within the family soon begin to impact the family’s public life. The child’s negative behaviors are no longer confined to the home, but are witnessed by family, friends, school, and so on. Frustration and embarrassment often lead the family to turn to others for sympathy and with a long list of the child’s problems. Supportive people might offer advice which lines up with the family’s view that the child is the problem. All of this combines to subconsciously feed the family’s need to distance between themselves and the child.
#5 The Turning Point
After going public, step five is the turning point. The family continues to crumble. Usually, I have found that the child is involved in a critical incident, such as continually violating some family rules like destroying a sibling's possessions, stealing, sexually acting out or truancy, which the parents have long expected. In my experience, at this stage, adoptive parents feel that the child has crossed the line, and there is no hope for a healthy relationship. The family usually continues to live together, but with impenetrable walls of hurt, anger and rejection blocking future happiness. No one has any emotional energy to restore healthy family life.
The turning point often does not lead to a formal dissolution for the legal relationship, though in some cases, an adoption dissolution is inevitable. Regardless of legal dissolution, the turning point often leads to unrelenting conflict and this unrelenting conflict leads to a barrier to any real relationships and intimacy.
#6 The Deadline or Ultimatum
In some cases, the problems in the family culminate in a crisis. In the sixth step, the adoptive parents establish a deadline or ultimatum by which the child must leave unless the problems are resolved or improve drastically. Have you found, like I, that often these demands are out of the range of what is reasonable, such as demanding that clothing never be left on the floor or that the child never become angry anymore or misbehave in any way?
#7 The Final Crisis Ends the Adoptive Relationship
After the deadline, step seven in the negative spiral leading to dissolution is when the final crisis ends the adoptive relationship.
Miya, age 16, stated to me, "I was adopted as a 3-year-old, but now I’m back in foster care. My parents told me that if I came in late one more time, I would have to leave. I was late last night and now I’m in a girls’ group home. I remember in good times, my parents introduced me as their daughter. When we had a problem or a fight, I became their adopted daughter."
The day comes when whatever demand is made upon the child fails to be met. The final crisis erupts within the family. Even a minor incident can become the last straw. The family makes the decision to have the child permanently removed from the home, often demanding that the removal occur immediately. What is left is often considerable pain on the part of everyone affected by the dissolution, an angry, confused, rejected child and angry, guilty, grieving parents.
Technique: Adoption Communication Survey
If the adoptive family recognizes themselves on these downward spiraling steps toward adoption dissolution, they may choose to contact their adoption agency or support group for intervention and support. I have found the "Adoption Communication Survey," in the back of your manual, to be a helpful guide to examining the adoptive family relationship. This self-assessment can aid adoptive parents in assessing their own style of coping with the differences that adoption creates.
Do you have a client whose family is experiencing one of these phases? Might playing this track for him or her during your next session be beneficial?
On this track, we have discussed Seven Steps of Adoptive Emotional Dissolution. This has included the honeymoon, diminishing pleasures, the child is the problem, going public, the turning point, the deadline or ultimatum and the final crisis ends the adoptive relationship.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Balsam, K. F., Rothblum, E. D., & Wickham, R. E. (2017). Longitudinal predictors of relationship dissolution among same-sex and heterosexual couples. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 6(4), 247–257.
Goldberg, A. E., & Garcia, R. (2015). Predictors of relationship dissolution in lesbian, gay, and heterosexual adoptive parents. Journal of Family Psychology, 29(3), 394–404.
Wiley, M. O. (2017). Adoption research, practice, and societal trends: Ten years of progress. American Psychologist, 72(9), 985–995.
Online Continuing Education QUESTION 14
What are the seven steps of adoptive emotional dissolution?
To select and enter your answer go to .
This CD set has covered such topics as: infancy to age seven, ages eight to twelve, ages twelve to fifteen, ages sixteen to nineteen, Trigger Times for Grief in Adopted Children, Core Issues for Adoptive Parents, the Ten Commandments of Telling, The Life-book Technique, Sharing About Abandonment, Sharing About Abuse, Sharing About Rape and Incest, and The Seven Steps of the Negative Spiral toward Adoptive Dissolution.
I hope you have found the information to be both practical and beneficial. We appreciate that you've chosen the Healthcare Training Institute as a means for receiving your continuing education credit.
Other Home Study Courses we offer include: Treating Teen Self Mutilation; Treating Post Holiday Let-Down and Depression; Living with Secrets: Treating Childhood Sexual Trauma; Interventions for Anxiety Disorders with Children and Adults; and Balancing the Power Dynamic in the Therapeutic Relationship.
I wish you the best of luck in your practice. Thank you.