Top 5 Adoption Trauma Books You Must Read

    The more I speak with adoptive parents, the more I am learning that adoption agencies and adoption professionals rarely educate or prepare prospective and hopeful adoptive parents about adoption trauma, leaving many adoptive parents struggling to understand their child’s behavioral and identity issues, and inability to attach to their adoptive family.

    Knowing what adoption trauma is and understanding the effects of the separation between a child and his natural mother is vital for adoptive parents to create a healthy relationship with their adopted child. Having an understanding of adoption trauma will help adoptive parents recognize their child’s issues associated with adoption trauma and find the necessary help by seeking therapist trained in adoption trauma to help their child be the best version of themselves as they grow up.

    In the event that you were not educated or made privy of adoption trauma, I have put together five of the best books for adoptive parents, natural mothers, and adoptees to learn about adoption trauma and themselves. These books have the power to unlock identity issues, grief, PTSD, depression, anxiety and find validation in issues that many adoptees struggle with.


    Adoption Therapy: Perspectives from Clients and Clinicians on Processing and Healing Post-Adoption Issues by Laura Dennis

    A much-needed anthology addressing a variety of potential psychological and physiological concerns, Adoption Therapy, Perspectives from Clients and Clinicians on Processing and Healing Post-Adoption Issues is a must-read for adoptees, adoptive parents, first families, and vitally, mental health professionals.
    With writing by adoptees, adoptive parents, and clinicians, Adoption Therapy is a first-of-its-kind and wholly unique reference book, providing insight, advice, and personal stories which highlight the specific nature of the adoptee experience.

    Topics Include:
    •The psychological dangers in leaving trauma and grief buried and unaddressed
    •The importance of community in healing the wounds of separation
    •Understanding the physical and psychological effects of transracial adoption
    •Attachment—including the inability to attach, inappropriate attachment, and the myth of Reactive Attachment Disorder
    •Conception by rape: an adoptee speaks out
    •Co-dependency, intimacy, and creating closeness
    •The life-long effects of pre- and perinatal trauma
    •Processing complex trauma, complex grief, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
    •Specific concerns for Late Discovery Adoptees
    •The relationship among trauma, anger and rage, and substance abuse
    •For adoptive parents and adoptees: red flags when working with a therapist



    The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child by Nancy Newton Verrier

    A book which adoptees call their “bible,” it is a must read for anyone connected with adoption: adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents, therapists, educators, and attorneys. In its application of information about perinatal psychology, attachment, bonding, and loss, “The Primal Wound” clarifies the effects of separation from the birthmother on adopted children. In addition, it gives adoptees, whose pain has long been unacknowledged or misunderstood, validation for their feelings, as well as explanations for their behavior.



    Coming Home to Self: The Adopted Child Grows Up by Nancy Newton Verrier

    Coming Home to Self is a book about becoming aware. It is written for all members of the adoption triad: adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents as well as those who are in a relationship with them, including professionals. It explains the influence imprinted upon the neurological system and, thus, on future functioning. It explains how false beliefs create fear and perpetuate being ruled by the wounded child. It is a book which will help adoptees discover their authentic selves after living without seeing themselves reflected back all their lives.




    Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self by David M. Brodzinsky, Marshall D. Schecter, Robin Henig

    The authors call upon years of experience as researchers and counselors in the field of adoption to describe the continual adjustments that adoptees make as they grow from infancy to old age. Most moving is the litany of losses that move adoptees to grieve, often unknowingly. Even infants only a few months old show signs of mourning their first caretakers. Later, the authors say, adoptees may confront the loss not only of a birth family but of a personal and genetic history. The latter is particularly painful when it is time for young adults to begin their own families. Such life crises often kick off a search for birth parents



    Journey of the Adopted Self: A Quest For Wholeness by Betty Jean Lifton PhD.

    Betty Jean Lifton, whose Lost and Found has become a bible to adoptees and to those who would understand the adoption experience, explores further the inner world of the adopted person. She breaks new ground as she traces the adopted child’s lifelong struggle to form an authentic sense of self. And she shows how both the symbolic and the literal search for roots becomes a crucial part of the journey toward wholeness.

    …And one more since it was highly recommended by my readers:


    Top 5 Adoption Trauma Books for adoptees, birth mothers, and adoptive parents


    The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family by Karen Purvis, David R. Cross, Wendy Lyons Sunshine

    The adoption of a child is always a joyous moment in the life of a family. Some adoptions, though, present unique challenges. Welcoming these children into your family–and addressing their special needs–requires care, consideration, and compassion.

    Written by two research psychologists specializing in adoption and attachment, The Connected Child will help you:

    • Build bonds of affection and trust with your adopted child
    • Effectively deal with any learning or behavioral disorders
    • Discipline your child with love without making him or her feel threatened


    BONUS BOOK ★★★★★



    Rooted in Adoption: A Collection of Adoptee Reflections by Veronica Breaux and Shelby Kilgore

    Rooted in Adoption: A Collection of Adoptee Reflections is a compilation of experiences from those who have been adopted. The authors asked adoptees of various ages, backgrounds, and experiences to share their personal adoption stories. Adoptees are the true leading experts on adoption. They discuss the joys of adoption and the challenges associated with living a lifetime of unanswered questions, leading to their past and identity.


    Primal Wound was my first book read on adoption trauma. It was a huge eye-opener for me as an adoptee. It is no wonder it has been coined the “Adoptee Bible”. It was the validation I was desperately seeking growing up attempting to understand the complex feelings I carried inside that I did not understand as an adopted child and adult. Primal Wound provided me with validation, clarity, truth, peace and understanding I needed all of my life. I highly recommend it as the first book read for every adoptee, birth mom, adoptive parent, and professional to read.

    Have you read any of these books? If yes, what has been your biggest takeaway that you are applying to yourself or your family? 

    Are you an adoptee that has struggled with adoption trauma? What would you recommend to adoptive parents to better understand their adopted child? 


    Disclaimer: My recommended book list contains Amazon affiliate links where I earn a tiny percentage from each purchase. I would be grateful if you would support by purchasing directly through my links. IAmAdopted.Net is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to 




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    Jessenia Parmer
    Jessenia Parmer
    I'm Jessenia. I am an adult adoptee with 10 years of experience advocating and fostering relationships with adoptees, and over five years of experience teaching adoptive parents how to have a successful and genuine relationship with their adopted child.


    1. Robert A Hafetz says:

      The actual process of preverbal, not PTSD, trauma experienced by adoptees. From Parenting the Adopted Child Robert Hafetz MS
      Infants only a few days old can record long term memories. “Infants do not think but they do process emotions and long term memories are stored as affective schemas” (Geansbauer, 2002). An infant separated from its first mother will record a memory of that event. Memories of this nature are called preverbal memory representations and they have a unique quality that must be understood by adoptive parents. “Infant memories are recalled in adulthood the same way they were recorded at the time they occurred. It is difficult possibly impossible for children to map newly acquired verbal skills on to existing preverbal memory representations” (Richardson, R., & Hayne, H. 2007). An older adoptee who recalls an emotional memory will experience it the same way it was felt as an infant. Adoptees can have troubling memories that they cannot identify in words. This means that they cannot understand what they are feeling and without a vocabulary they cannot even ask for help. This leads to a cognitive /emotional disconnection. “Children fail to translate their preverbal memories into language”(Simcock, Hayne, 2002).
      An adopted child will learn from his family that he is wanted, loved, belongs, and that they will never leave him. His emotional memories will trigger fears that are exactly the opposite. An adopted child can know he belongs but feel isolated. He can know that he will never be abandoned but feel that he will. He can know that he is whole but feel that a part of him is missing. He can know that he is loved but feel that he is not. This incongruence between thoughts and feelings becomes the foundation of poor attachment; problem behaviors, power struggles, poor academic performance, and attachment regulating behaviors mystify parents. The struggle to bring thoughts and feelings into coherence can be a lifelong task for adopted children. It doesn’t have to be this way.

    2. Laura says:

      Thank you for this great list. The Connected Child is the single greatest parenting book I have ever read- not just for adoption and trauma either.

      Do you have any specific recommendations for friends and family who see adoptive families going down the dark road of “fringe” trauma therapy? Desperation makes people do dangerous things and standing by watching is heart breaking.

      • Hi, Laura. Thank you for your comment.

        I’m sorry, I do not know what you mean by “fringe” trauma therapy. Can you explain? I’d be happy to share my thoughts once I can better understand your question.

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