Our Privacy/Cookie Policy contains detailed information about the types of cookies & related technology on our site, and some ways to opt out. By using the site, you agree to the uses of cookies and other technology as outlined in our Policy, and to our Terms of Use.


How Does Adoption Affect Siblings Who Get Separated?

An awareness of how the adoption experience affects separated siblings helps loving moms make informed decisions about adoption. Although children demonstrate enduring benefits from remaining with siblings during adoption, sibling groups are often separated, and problems may ensue. Relationships with siblings don't eclipse the significance of bonds with parents, children and spouses, yet they still fulfill vital roles in a child’s development. Sibling bonds provide a long-term source of support, teach social skills, and support and affirm a child's concept of self. Many barriers abound that contribute to the separation of adopted siblings, but most children prefer to be adopted with their siblings.

Separation and Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry is a normal part of childhood development, with the very closeness of the relationships between siblings contributing to a number of tumultuous issues on the home front. The intensity and frequency of sibling rivalry varies according to the family dynamics in place and the developmental levels of the siblings. Separated siblings lose an important opportunity to acquire social skills, such as conflict resolution and problem-solving, which are crucial for building positive relationships both now and in the future.

RELATED: Why I Let My Children Work It Out Without Me

Defining Self-Worth and Identity

Siblings often provide soothing, consistent feedback concerning a child’s value as an individual and identity. For adopted children, a sibling can serve as a lighthouse that guides the child who may struggle with feelings of poor self-worth and misplaced identity. For separated siblings, children miss the gentle reminders of who they are and why they matter that siblings provide. The question of identity is particularly relevant for adolescents, who typically resolve identity issues during this developmental period. Questions arise during adolescence related to the contribution of the adolescent’s biological heritage that may remain difficult to address without the reassuring presence of biological siblings.

Separation of the Oldest Sibling

In cases where the oldest sibling has assumed the responsibility for parenting younger siblings, separation of siblings may influence multiple negative effects. The younger siblings, who may continue to grieve the absence of the biological parent’s loving support, now face the loss of the secure attachment developed with the older sibling. The oldest sibling experiences grief and apprehension when separated from the younger siblings she adores. Sadly, the outcome of the separation is a double loss for the siblings.

RELATED: Activities to Keep Siblings From Fighting

Variables Contributing to Separation

Although the factors that contribute to separation are challenging, an awareness of the barriers can help to remove them. Large sibling groups can prove overwhelming for adoptive and foster families, especially when one or more sibling has exceptional needs, or behavioral or emotional problems. In addition to the size of a sibling group, groups containing sizable age differences between siblings are more likely to be separated. When siblings are placed in foster care in different jurisdictions, at different times and through separate agencies, it increases problems associated with preserving bonds between siblings.

More from kids