Mental health in international adoptees as teenagers and young adults. An epidemiological study

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 1999 Nov;40(8):1239-48.


Sweden has now around 38,000 individuals who have been adopted from other countries. Most often they are transracially adopted and have a different appearance from their new parents--"visible" adoptions. This study was made to explore the mental health of a teenager/young adult group that arrived with their families in the southernmost county of Sweden between 1970 and 1977. They were placed through the largest Swedish adoption agency at that time. One hundred and forty-seven families and their 211 adopted children, who were 13 years of age or older at the time of the investigation, were interviewed in their homes. CBCL, SCL-90, a self-esteem questionnaire, and two family relations inventories were also completed. Compared to nonadopted Swedish young persons of the same ages, who had been investigated with the same inventories in earlier epidemiological studies, the adoptees had as good mental health. The adoptees also reported good self-esteem. The pre-adoption conditions were more important than the age of arrival in itself for the risk of later maladaptation. Family relations, various aspects of identity, and peer relations explained much of the variance of mental health and self-esteem. Those who were most engaged in questions about their identity and felt mostly non-Swedish had more behaviour problems. The association, however, between the factor "Identity" and the mental health variables approached zero for the older subjects (18-27 years of age). The majority (about 90%) of the adoptees felt mostly Swedish. Seventy per cent didn't feel any connection to their country of origin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation*
  • Adolescent
  • Adoption / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Ethnicity / psychology*
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Family Relations
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Personality Development
  • Self Concept
  • Social Adjustment
  • Sweden