Family Health History: Invaluable for Adoptees' Medical Care and Self Identity

Narrat Inq Bioeth. 2018;8(2):143-149. doi: 10.1353/nib.2018.0052.


Adoption is one of several ways to have a family. Adoption is unique in that it involves birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees. For many adoptees, there is no information about their birth family health history which can create healthcare challenges. In these narratives, many adoptees discuss genetic testing as a substitution for their birth family health history which is one common theme in these stories. However, two narratives illustrate the value of an on-going family health history with birth families to identify health risks that are not identified in genetic testing but evolve over time. Another theme in these narratives is the adoptees' feeling of loss and their search for self-identity. For some adoptees this sense of loss never goes away and leaves them with an incomplete identity. Society, but especially adoptive parents, should help adoptees' in this search to help them cope with the sense of loss and incompleteness adoption can create and form a healthy self-identity.

MeSH terms

  • Access to Information* / psychology
  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adoption* / psychology
  • Attitude
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Emotions
  • Family*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genetic Testing
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Information Seeking Behavior*
  • Narration
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Risk
  • Self Concept*