Aggression in Adoption

In 2014 the Department of Education report “Beyond the Adoption Order” looked at child adoptions that had broken down and the experiences of adoptive families in England.  Researchers had expected ADHD and attachment difficulties to feature as central causes of adoption breakdown, however what they found was that childhood aggression and violence was far more prolific with child violence to parents and siblings being the main cause (80%) of young people had to leave home.

Parents described their difficulties in coping with incredibly angry and volatile young children who were unable to regulate their emotions. Rages and tantrums could escalate quickly and last for several hours. The children’s aggression often spilled over into their peer relationships and school lives. Parents described how they were regularly contacted by the school with complaints about their child’s aggressive behaviour. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of the children struggled to accept praise or respond positively to attempts to show them that they were cared about. Children sabotaged experiences to ensure a negative adult reaction. Children often did not care for their possessions, some purposefully ruined items.

Much of the aggression shown by the young people occurred within the adoptive home. It was not the common adolescent boundary testing behaviour, nor the occasional squaring up of sons to fathers, but violence intended to control, and dominate. Children who had been aggressive towards their parents from early on in the placement typically continued to be so as they got older.
The report highlighted that childhood aggression in the adopted population was one of the central causes of adoption breakdown. It was also highlighted that without effective intervention children who were aggressive at age 7 or 8 were likely to continue to be aggressive into adolescents and that this behaviour may escalate. The need for effective intervention and support for parents at an early stage was seen as vital to support adoptive placements.

The full Beyond the Adoption Order report can be Viewed Here.

Since the report progress has been made in improving services for children adopted in England with the introduction of the Adoption Support Fund which provides access to funds for approved support. 

The Behaviour Clinic specialises in providing therapy and support for families experiencing childhood aggression. Click Here for more information about our services.