Entitlement

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entitlement

The term is usually used to describe the feeling of the adoptive parents that they deserve their adopted child and can truly bond to him or her. But this term can also be used to describe such feelings of anyone in the adoptive family.

Authors Jerome Smith and Franklin Miroff write in their book, You're Our Child,

The sense of entitlement of the parents to child, of child to parents, and siblings to each other is a task unique to adoption. This is a relatively easy procedure in having a biological child and usually occurs at an unconscious level. For adoptive parents, however, there is this extra psychological step involved.

Author Patricia Johnston maintains that entitlement is not always an immediate feeling. "Developing a sense of entitlement is an ongoing process of growth rather than a single task identifiably completable, and the success of an adoption is related to the degree to which this sense of entitlement has been acquired by each family member rather than to its being seen as achieved or not achieved."

Some adoption experts believe infertile couples continually struggle over feelings of entitlement to their adopted child. Other researchers believe societal attitudes inhibit or enhance the feeling of entitlement. Charlene Miall studied how adoptive parents perceived community attitudes and found those she interviewed were dismayed by the attitudes and behavior of people they knew.

Miall observed that the absence of entitlement in some infertile adoptive parents was probably caused more by a knowledge of the attitudes of the surrounding society than by a failure to adequately deal with the infertility. She said the focus on bloodties in much social work literature relegates adoption to a second-rate position. (See also ATTITUDES ABOUT ADOPTION.)

Critics of OPEN ADOPTION state that when an adoptive family and the birthfamily know each other's identity and periodically exchange information, it may be difficult for the adoptive family to feel an entitlement to the child. (And visits with the child are becoming increasingly more common in open adoptions.) As a result, they will feel the child is really the birthfamily's child and not their own.

Proponents of open adoption as well as proponents of meetings between birthfamilies and adopting families hypothesize that when adoptive families believe they were actually selected by the birthfamily, they feel more of an entitlement than when they were simply selected from an adoption agency waiting list.


Patricia Irwin Johnston, An Adoptor's Advocate (Indianapolis: Perspectives Press, 1984).

Charlene E. Miall, "The Stigma of Adoptive Parent Status: Perceptions of Community Attitudes Toward Adoption and the Experience of Informal Social Sanctioning," Family Relations 36 (January 1987): 34-39.

Jerome Smith, Ph.D., and Franklin I. Miroff, You're Our Child: The Adoption Experience (Lanham, Md.: Madison Books, 1987).

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