WEDNESDAY, May 25, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Children adopted from other countries are well-adjusted and have fewer behavioral problems than domestically adopted children, according to a Dutch study.
"Contrary to common opinion, international adoptees present fewer behavior problems than domestic adoptees, and they have lower rates of mental health referral," concluded researchers at Leiden University, reporting in the May 25 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
And they add that, "unexpectedly, age at adoption does not appear to be important for the development of behavioral problems."
According to background information included in the study, international adoptions now total more than 40,000 children a year, moving between more than 100 countries.
The researchers reviewed the medical literature from 1950 to January 2005, focusing on adoptees' behavioral health and rate of mental health referrals.
They found that adoptees in general -- whatever their country of birth -- do tend to seek out mental health care at rates that are higher than non-adopted individuals. However, "the majority of international adoptees are well-adjusted," the study authors concluded.
The environment in which adopted children were raised prior to adoption may be key to long-term mental health, the Dutch team add. "Clinicians should be aware of higher risks for problem behaviors in domestic adoptees and in international adoptees who experienced neglect or maltreatment in the preadoptive world," they say.
"Before adoption, international adoptees often experience insufficient medical care, malnutrition, maternal separation, and neglect and abuse in orphanages," they wrote.
The U.S. National Adoption Information Clearinghouse has more about international adoptions.