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Dissertation Title:

Living Adopted: The Experiences of People Adopted During Their Toddler Years


Joshua Tyler Noblin

Date, Time & Place:

November 22, 2015 at 12:30 pm
Studio, Lambert Road campus


The purpose of this study is to better understand the impact of early relational trauma of individuals adopted during their toddler years, between 18 months and 36 months old. A phenomenological approach was employed to collect and analyze data from interviews with eight individuals adopted during toddlerhood. Each participant completed the Adult Attachment Interview, a supplemental interview, and a brief follow-up interview to provide information relevant to his or her attachment style, personal history, and family history. The event of adoption is often seen as a singular relational trauma. However, research suggests that the prenatal, perinatal, and early childhood environments are rife with ambient trauma, which are then punctuated by the abandonment of mother. This is particularly true for later adoptees. These traumas leave deep, enduring, wounds buried in the adoptee’s preverbal history, which manifest in lifelong relational and emotional challenges. The results of this study suggest a strong degree of continuity, not only between adult and childhood attachment styles, but also reaching farther back exposing a thread of continuity from the in utero environment and infancy, through childhood, and into adulthood. This study also suggests that the environment provided by the adoptive family carries less weight than the prenatal, infant, and toddler environment in determining an adult adoptee’s defensive strategies, attachment style, and personality development.



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  • Program/Track/Year: Clinical Psychology, Track A, 2011
  • Chair: Dr. Avedis Panajian
  • Reader: Dr. Christine Lewis
  • External Reader: Dr. Jill Maine
  • Keywords: Adoption, Attachment, Intergenerational, Perinatal Prenatal, Trauma