Is there a link between adoption and depression?

Can Being Adopted Lead to Depression in Adults?

There is no scientific evidence indicating that being adopted leads to Major Depressive Disorder, either in childhood and adolescence or as an adult. But based on what medical professionals believe are some of the causes of the disorder, it appears that adoption could lead to depression in some people.

Currently, little research is dedicated specifically to the effect of adoption on a person's likelihood of suffering from depression. In a study published by the National Institutes of Health, researchers found no difference in the rate of depression between adopted and nonadopted adolescent subjects. In fact, members of each group were more likely to suffer from MDD if either of their parents (adopted parents in the case of adoptees) also suffered from it. The rate of parental depression did not vary significantly between adoptive and nonadoptive families [source: Tully]. Researchers at Stanford and Harvard universities have also noticed a strong link between depression in adoptive children and their biological parents, finding that an adopted person's risk of depression is higher if one of his or her biological parents has also suffered from depression [sources: Levinson, Harvard University].

Although none of these studies indicates that being adopted makes a person more likely to suffer from MDD either as a child or an adult, there are nevertheless certain environmental factors thought to cause depression that could be brought on by virtue of being adopted. Specifically, doctors cite a person's failure to establish solid emotional bonds in infancy because of rejection or neglect (which could be a byproduct of being put up for adoption or living in foster homes for an extended period of time) as one of many possible sources of depression [source: University of Alabama]. Of course, this and many additional factors believed to cause depression can be linked to a number of other biological and environmental issues that are in no way related to adoption. In other words, while adoption could lead to depression, there is no hard evidence that it does.

So what about other psychological and behavioral disorders? Are adoptees more likely than others to develop them? Check out the next page to see what the experts say.