Deviant Genes & Adoption

I really do wonder what people REALLY believe about adoption? Its ironic that people everywhere pay lip service to those of us who have adopted. Making statements about how our adopted children are our real children (duh?) and comments about how those of us who have adopted are real mothers and fathers & yet when an adopted child grows up to be an inherently evil person, the first thing that people focus on is the fact that they were adopted. Which leads me to believe that deep in the core of all people, there is an inherent belief that adoption somehow makes a child less than or that perhaps it makes those of us who have adopted less equipped or proper parents?

Case in point – Johan Kotze, you can read the victims account of what he did to her here. After the details of what he did started coming to light, one of the first things to be reported was that he was adopted.

As a mother through adoption and also, I think, a fairly intelligent person, I really do wonder what the link is between the crime and adoption?  Personally, I think that him being adopted is irrelevant. Anyone can grow up to be a monster, both adopted or biological. It’s the age old debate of nature versus nurture. Some people are born with mental illness, of psychopathic tendencies and being adopted will have no baring on how those tendencies will play out. Deviant genes are past on from biological parents and not from adopted parents, this in turn means that a child with these genes is more likely to display deviant behavior regardless of his adopted status. Granted, being born with deviant genes and having ones adopted status handled in the wrong way could be the very trigger to bring out the deviant behavior but then any kind of trauma could lead to the display of this deviant behavior in both an adopted or biological child.

I started doing a bit of research into this topic and the findings were shocking.

But on further reading, I also learned some interesting information on how all of these ser.ial killers found out they were adopted and none of them learned about their adopted status from their adoptive parents sharing the truth with them from the very beginning. All of them found out, either by accident or through the unraveling of lies, in a traumatic fashion when they in their very impressionable teen years.

For example:

According to Bundy biographers Michaud and Aynesworth, Ted’s emotional growth was stopped in its tracks after he learned that he was illegitimate at age 13. “It was like I hit a brick wall,” Bundy had said. Of course, he tried out every excuse he could rummage, so it’s difficult to take his word on this when his family life appeared otherwise healthy.

The other thing that became abundantly clear when reading up on this topic is that all of these killers, both adopted and biological, experienced some kind of trauma as children which seems to have been the trigger for their deviant genes.

From a legal stand point, there seems to be arguments both for and against Adopted Child Syndrome. With many arguing this is just another excuse, in the vein of abuse etc, to explain away a crime.

By now, all of you who are secretly “against” adoption are probably nodding your heads in agreement but on further reading into ACS (adopted child syndrome) I was relieved to read that experts are all in agreement that

 generally children adopted before the age of six-months fare no differently than children raised with their biological parents. Later problems that develop among children adopted from the child welfare system at an older age are usually associated with the effects of chronic early maltreatment in the care-giving relationship; abuse and neglect.

Which once again brings me back to my point that any childhood trauma suffered by both adopted and or biological children, can trigger deviant genetics and or/behavior.

Its a very interesting topic for me but the one thing that is very very clear in all of this is that the handling of a child’s adoptive status is very very important and that is should be done in the right way. Ava already “knows” that she is adopted. Both Walter and I agree, and our SW concurs, full disclosure of the truth is the best way to go. She will grow up knowing that she is adopted, granted, right now, she doesn’t understand what it means, but as she grows and matures, she will gain a deeper and deeper understanding of what it all means without the sudden and painful disclosure of her adopted status when she is older and when it is far more likely to have a negative impact on her sense of security, self worth and sense of self.

I guess, in the long-winded way, what I’m trying to say is that I would love to know what people REALLY believe at the core about adoption and that I wish people wouldn’t focus so much on the negativity surrounded adoption. Biological children have just as much tendency to grow up damaged as adopted children do.

We are all, after all, a product of our upbringings.

Disclaimer – the words above are based on MY opinion and are by no means scientific fact.

Share on
Previous Post Next Post

You may also like


  • Reply dellapieterse

    This is very interesting. I had an adoptive brother and he gave my parents problems from a very young age. He stole, he lied and generally had sociopathic behaviour. Was the fact that he adopted the reason? I don’t think so. He was adopted at 9 months and he was only told “later on” that he was adopted, but he also had a lot of these tendencies at a very young age (long before he could even have known what adoption is). I also do belief that he should have been told from the start that he was adopted, but in those days it was dealt with differently. Maybe the fact that he had a traumatic first 9 months was the issue, maybe he was born with it, maybe the fact that he was adopted contributed, but it might have been that all these factors played a role and not just one thing.

    On the other side of the coin, I know of people whose biological child turned out to be a murderer. There were no trauma in his life and he was not adopted, so what then?

    Very interesting and all we can do is love our children and try and prepare them to deal life, of which one aspect is the fact that they are adopted.

    January 23, 2012 at 12:41 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      I don’t think that the adoption plays such a huge part in it though. For me, the point is that it’s when genetics meet with the right trigger to bring out deviant behaviour, this would be true for both biological and adopted children. I do think that in adopted children who carry a deviant gene the handing of their adopted status could play a part in being the trigger to release that behaviour.
      Its an interesting topic for me but I’ve gotten more clarity on it by reading up on it and realizing that all of our experiences (nurture) mixed with our genetics (nature) will create who we are as adults.

      January 23, 2012 at 1:03 pm
  • Reply Fiona

    I totally agree with you Sharon. This nature vs nuture debate has been going on for years but one thing has always stuck me with since school days and that is the science experiment from primary school where we planted two seeds and grew them under different conditions? We got two totally different outcomes.

    January 23, 2012 at 1:45 pm
  • Reply mrs see

    My parents have 5 biologican children and 1 foster child. All six of us are wildly different. One is a liar, one is incredibly intelligent, one is a religious nut, one is on the brink of suicide, one is capable of dealing with huge stress – I could go on. The foster child doesn’t in any way stand out as being more different than anyone else.

    January 23, 2012 at 2:40 pm
  • Reply Tan

    Very interesting topic Sharon.

    Both my Mom and Uncle are adopted. They were told from an early age that they were adopted. but both ended up with very different lives. My mom is fairly normal and My uncle sadly is border line Psychopath and drug addict.
    From what I have read up on the matter they are now saying that Psychopaths/anti social personality disorders have certain amount of brain damage on the orbitofrontal cortex which then takes away the nurture argument. But again there are a lot of conflicting arguments on the matter.

    I do believe there will always be some long term effects for everyone in the adoption triad but I don’t believe that it will cause a child to become a psychopath or deviant.

    I do believe that the more open* you are about the adoption with your child, the easier it is for that child to process and accept the adoption and not to feel like it is something to be ashamed of or feel abandoned.

    *Open = forthcoming and honest about why the adoption happened and as much info to be given about the adoption as is relevant to the child’s age.

    January 23, 2012 at 3:38 pm
  • Reply wynette1

    HI Sharon – I am new to blogging being a therapis I have always tried to keep my private life private. However, after adopting our little boy 6 months ago I have been interested in other peoples experience and just started to blog. I have been shocked how many , many people see adoption. At times its wounded me on behalf of my son. As a first time mom I have been to a few paed visits , moms mornings etc…and often I am left feeling that some people look at you like you differnt, like you not part part of, I even remember one making me feel like i not a genuine mother like its counterfeit. Anycase back to your questions or statements I think your piece is accurate and balanced. I have worked with many adopted children, I have friends who are adopted and who have adopted etc….I think what we need to be aware as parents is that many, many adults are wounded , some walk a healing journey, some are aware some are so busy projecting their wounds to the world that they cause deep damage to the children in their care, whether biological or adopted. I have come to see that children who are adopted and struggling would of struggled with the same issues if those parents were their biological parents as well. I think as long as we as adults are responsible with our own healing and own stuff and seek professional help when we need we will natrually be more equipped in mothering and fathering in a way a child needs. Also when you have children they naturally trigger “”our own stuff”” . Again if the stuff is not worked through of course we going to cause damage plus with the wound that some theorist believe adopted children have there is possibility of what is described above. I beleive a loving enviroment , parents who work on their own stuff, knowledge of the struggles adopted children may have and wisdom to work through it could actually help an adopted child to have amazing inner strenght and knowing of who they really are from the inside….A great read is “”the primal wound””” try it may give you some more insight

    January 23, 2012 at 3:52 pm
  • Reply Mash

    I have an unpublished post on this topic and will post it tonight…

    January 23, 2012 at 6:27 pm
  • Reply Some Thought Provoking Conversation about Adoption | The Lucky Life

    […] my bloggettes post about it before I do.  It’s happened with my last two posts!  Thanks Sharon and LM! Advertisement GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

    January 23, 2012 at 6:45 pm
  • Reply Laura

    Isn’t it the whole nature vs nurture debate? I can see it clearly with my kids who have only had David in their lives for 3 years (not even half their lives) – they very definitely pick up and learn habits and behaviours from him. Cameron was incredible aggressive just before we met David (much like his dad) but now is the calmest kid you could meet.

    I think the way a child is raised has more to do with how they turn out than anything else! But having said that you do get those cases where child 1 goes on to become very succesful and child 2 does “nothing” with their life.

    I dont know if it can every be attributed to one thing!

    January 23, 2012 at 7:57 pm
  • Reply Lea White

    I know 3 family members (1 on my side and 2 on Terence’s side) who are adopted and sadly 2 went off the rails. I don’t think the main thing is the fact that people are adopted or not. Because they were very much loved and cared for and treated as biological children after they were adopted. But sometimes when babies didn’t get the love they should have and the stimulation then I think that could contribute to huge problems later on. And I think in the case of the two who went off the rails it was possibly the case. The 1 I think had a mum who did drugs and so on.

    An example I recently saw is this one – where it is rather heartbreaking to see the physical effects of not receiving the love and stimulation this child needed. Thankfully she is doing much much better now that she is adopted.

    January 23, 2012 at 8:54 pm
  • Reply To Love Bella

    Maybe it just is a convenient way of “explaining it away”, Sharon. Generally, murderers / abusers (who are NOT adopted) have had some sort of trauma too. So I just don’t get why the fact that some are adopted has to be dragged through it. It creates such a stigma!

    Isabella also “knows”. We have been telling her for the past few months now. It will become more evident to her now that she has started school and may encounter siblings and pregnant tummies.

    One of my fears before deciding to adopt was that my adopted child would do something naughty and I’d think “MMYYY child would never do something like that”. Silly, I know. But it touches on what you’ve said here and now I realise how STUPID it is. What a stupid thought it was!! I am embarrassed to admit that it was amongst my many, many fears.

    (All of which, I might add, are – with hindisight – totally irrational and idiotic)!


    January 24, 2012 at 8:57 am
  • Reply Sian

    My FIL made a coment on Sunday about Johan Kotze being adopted and quickly changed the subject when we both gave him a funny look. Society loves sterotypes and labels and to be honest they irritate me! I have experienced them all my life and I find myself being very protective when it comes to my son because I just wish there was a way for him not to be exposed to it. But the truth is that he will…..and so I feel that I need to teach him not to be embarassed about where he comes from. I need to write my own post on this!!!

    January 24, 2012 at 9:23 am
  • Reply Gwen

    Genetics and epigenetics are complicated, and it is a huge oversimplification to talk about a single gene being responsible for “deviant” behaviour. There are many relevant genes, some of which may amplify each other and some of which may mitigate each other. Without even going into the nature nurture thing there are so many confounders. It is possible, for example, that there is a maternal effect during pregnancy. Perhaps one could find a pattern of certain effects in unplanned pregnancies generally, whether the child is eventually adopted or not, where the biological mother may not realise she is pregnant for much of the first trimester and in some cases (and I am NOT saying this is true of your BM) take less care of her health during pregnancy. Mothers whose children are adopted may be younger on average, which may have a physiological effect too, or an impact on how they manage their pregnancies. On the nurture side, apart from the issues that you have raised, it is possible that some parents raise an adopted child subtly differently, especially if they have biological children of their own too.

    Bottom line – each and every one of us could find a whole bunch of risk factors for something or other in our children’s lives, due to our own medical histories, our personal circumstances or other factors. All human beings are flawed in one way (many ways actually) or another. All we can do is take cognisance of what might affect our children and otherwise raise them as best we can.

    As for what other people think. I am a little weary with myself for being annoyed with people not understanding my personal issues. People understand shit about infant death, cancer, infertility, spousal abuse, living with a mentally ill family member and all the many issues that flow from these things. But there are so many traumas out there – rape, child abuse, serious mental or physical disability, extreme poverty, losing a parent at an early age, suicide in the family, each with their own subtleties that are not obvious to the rest of us. It is annoying and sometimes deeply hurtful when people seem ignorant, but there is more ignorance out there about almost everything than can ever be fixed, because it just seems to be part of the human condition to hold onto one’s beliefs, no matter how stupid, irrational, destructive or cruel, with reckless disregard for the actual evidence. I suppose it’s obvious that I’m in a negative frame of mind about this. I do believe that one can and should offer and expect respect and empathy, if not understanding.

    January 24, 2012 at 10:24 am
    • Reply Mash

      Gwen, I think it’s time you started a blog girl 😉

      Love reading your comments.

      January 24, 2012 at 2:59 pm
  • Reply Nisey

    Since J was adopted at 15 months and suffered abuse and neglect and has thus far displayed aggressive tendencies do you think I should start saving for the legal fees 😉

    I have to say that I wouldn’t bother with the research and will ignore any naysayers. My family is blessed to be together and with love and compassion the 3 of us will deal with whatever is thrown at us – much as any biologically related family would!

    January 24, 2012 at 4:07 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      LOL!!! Yip! Best u start saving for all those legal fee’s!

      January 24, 2012 at 4:57 pm
  • Reply Julia

    Very interesting post. Personally, I believe that some people just have problems and turn out to be horrible adults, whether or not they are adopted. While I was reading this post I was thinking of a conversation that I had with my other infertile friend about 5 or so years ago. My friend had 4 unsuccessful IVF’s and one successful one where the pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage at 10 weeks.
    We spoke about adoption a few years ago. She was VERY VERY keen. Her husband wasn’t. His reasons? He was afraid that the child would become rebellious. Seriously. That was what he said. I told my friend that day that I had never ever heard anything more ridiculous than that, because as far as I was concerned, any child/teenager could become rebellious, adopted or not.
    She gave up on the adoption idea because he just wouldn’t come around. I still can’t believe the ignorance of what he said.

    January 27, 2012 at 6:34 pm
  • Reply Ijeukwu Ekobay

    We adopted S at 5days old. She’s now 11 years old and in grade 11 equivalent and we are yet to tell her she’s adopted. We, the adoptive parents are both fair skinned while she’s dark skinned. I was 50 years old when we adopted her and certain people ask her questions such as :’How come you are not fair like your parents? Is she your grandmother?’ When she comes to me with these comments I reply: Your grand dad (my dad) was dark and I had you at 50 and you are a precious child. ‘ She has been exhibiting deviant tendencies since, as far back as i can remember, age 4(taking other children’s things, stealing hair bands, sweets and chocolate from the shops we take her to, rebellion, strongwill, extreme manifestations of stubbornness and disobedience and all that). By age 8 she started stealing money from my purse and rifling through boxes in the bedroom where we tucked things away in the house. These didnt go without our disciplining her, counseling with the Word of God, etc. She’s in the boarding school now but it’s been one adverse report or the other to the extent that that she has to see the School Guidance Counselor regularly. This is the 3rd trimester. At the beginning we increased her daily spending money by 100% and it seemed to work. For more than the first half of the trimester no adverse reports! All of a sudden she was reported to have stolen someone’s money(a huge amount) and by the 3rd day, when she was found out, she had spent everything!
    It was while reading up conduct disorder in adopted children that i realized we should have told her she was adopted as early as age 4 even. At the point of adoption we were advised to wait until she’s 18 years old. My fear now is how she will respond. Will she want to trace her BM? In my country there are no records leading to an adopted child’s real mother. The police pick an abandoned baby, writes a report to the Welfare Department and the child is taken to a Government Approved orphanage and that’s where the adoptive parents go to with Government approval(after screening) to adopt. We plan to let her know when she comes home in August from school. But I’m scared of the way she might respond. I need your counsels here. Thanks.

    July 6, 2018 at 3:20 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      Wow, I’m so sorry you are going through this.
      As a matter or interest, where are you from?
      The advice to wait until your adopted child is 18 to tell them is VERY old school thinking as it does a huge amount of damage to the trust relationship with your child. I don’t think adoptions have been done this way in more than 20 years here in South Africa.
      With both my daughters, we have always spoken honestly and openly about them being adopted, from the very first day they were placed with us. They have known they were adopted from before they could even say the word adopted, or even truly understand what it meant.
      My advice would be to seek out professional advice from someone who specializes in adoption trauma to assist you and councel your child through the process.
      All the very best.

      July 8, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    I LOVE comments, leave yours here:

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    %d bloggers like this: