Adopted women seek birth parents

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The Independent Online

Women who have been adopted are twice as likely to search for their birth parents when they are adults as men, and most birth parents are traced within three months, research shows.

In the first such study of adopted people's search for their natural parents, a team from the University of East Anglia and the Children's Society found that 70 per cent were looking for a birth mother, 27 per cent for a sibling and only 3 per cent for a father.

Adoptive parents often worry thatthe child will want to meet the birth family, but the research, to be presented at a conference on adoption this week, suggests that they have little to fear.

"It is a very reassuring message for adoptive parents," said Professor David Howe, of the school of social work and psychological studies at the University of East Anglia. "More than half those interviewed felt more at home with their adoptive parents after they had met their birth mother or father."

"However, there was a very strong driving force for people to find out more about their genetic roots, which has implications for the growing number of children born by egg and sperm donation," he said.

Professor Howe and Julia Feast of the Children's Society, a children's charity, were funded by the Nuffield Foundation. They questioned 500 adopted people; 300 had searched for birth parents and 200 had been sought out by them. Of the searchers, 200 were women and 100 were men.

People adopted before they were eight months old were much less likely to want to find their birth parents. The average age to start looking was 29 for women and 32 for men; 40 per cent were traced within a month, and 60 per cent within three months. Contact was made in two-thirds of searches, but 7 per cent ended in rejection by the birth parent. Half of those who made contact were still in touch with their birth relatives five years later.