Post-Adoption Depression in Fathers

Post-partum depression occurs in nearly 15% percent of all new mothers and over 10% of new fathers. This psychological problem can affect not only the parents, but the children and the critical bond between the infant and the parent. “Less is known about parental post-adoption depression (PAD) that may occur in the parents of the 1,782,000 children in the United States who are adopted,” said Karen J. Foli of the Purdue University School of Nursing and lead author of a new study looking at the prevalence of PAD. “In the research reported thus far, the rate of post-adoption depression has a wide range, from 8%, 15.4% to 32%, with parents surveyed in varying contexts including inter-country and domestic.”

Post-partum paternal depression has been shown to result in behavioral and emotional challenges for children, especially boys. The pressure of adopting and the ensuing expectations that the parents put on the child and themselves increase the risk for post-adoption depression. In order to decrease the risk of psychological problems in adoptive children, Foli led a study to explore the symptoms related to PAD. She chose clinicians and professionals from adoption agencies to provide her with observations of symptoms exhibited by adoptive fathers because she believed their experience with the adoption process gave them insight into the normal range of emotions experienced during the often arduous journey. “Further, professionals play critical roles in the adoption process and are able to observe processes that may not be noted or disclosed by parents,” said Foli. “Shame, fear, and guilt are predominant barriers to parents’ disclosure of depressive symptoms.”

Foli reviewed surveys from the adoption agencies and discovered that there were five common denominators that led to PAD: “life stress; lingering grief issues over infertility or loss of birth child; maternal/paternal delayed or lack of bonding; depression during the adoption process; and difficult infant/child temperament.” She also found that most respondents validated the presence of PAD and noticed that men dealt with their depression with frustration and hostility rather than low mood and isolation. Foli said, “Professionals should consider gender differences in depressive symptoms when assessing and treating adoptive fathers.”

Foli, Karen J., and Gregory C. Gibson. “Sad Adoptive Dads: Paternal Depression in the Post-Adoption Period.” International Journal of Men’s Health 10.2 (2011): 153-62. Print.

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • grayson


    November 10th, 2011 at 2:22 PM

    I have a real hard time buying into this. If adopting a child is something that you wanted, and obviously there are no hormones involved in here like there would be with a biological pregnancy it amazes me that there are still people who cannot find happiness in the event. Maybe they are being selfish, not depressed.

  • Rachel


    March 6th, 2017 at 6:37 AM

    Its is REAL all i ever wanted was to be a mom… and when the kid came.. a 2 yr old. I thought id be so happy.. but i started being angry and short tempered and withdrawn. It takes A LOT of work. Its a total life changer for everyone involved and relationships change and things are hard. Doesnt mean we want it any less.. but there is some depression

  • Rosie


    November 10th, 2011 at 6:51 PM

    The fact that this is not a “biological” pregnancy has nothing to do with it. I am an adopted adult who grew up in a wonderful, loving family. That being said, the effects of adoption on all those involved is huge. Each person of the triad, the child, the birth parents and the adoptive parents, have been psychologically affected. For me, knowledge of this did not become evident until my adoptive parents passed away. I have been through many years of therapy to help me deal with this. This is not “selfishness,” it is reality. Yes, I was very lucky to be adopted and given a wonderful life. But I was also very unlucky to have been given away by the woman who carried me for 9 months. You can’t really understand this unless you are one of the triad.

  • daisy f

    daisy f

    November 10th, 2011 at 11:52 PM

    adoption,except for the lack of biological changes in the mother,is no different from having your own child for a couple.but do adopting parents receive the same kind of attention as those that are going to have their own baby?I don’t think so.and this needs to change.theres nothing worse than treating a couple who actually bring light to a child’s life different from other parents.

  • Luella T. Jackson

    Luella T. Jackson

    November 11th, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    “The pressure of adopting and the ensuing expectations that the parents put on the child and themselves increase the risk for post-adoption depression.” Okay, I can understand parents putting the pressure of expectations on themselves. They did after all jump through a lot of logistical hoops to get this child and don’t want to mess it up at the final fence. But why would they feel a need to put pressures of expectations on the child? I don’t think that’s very fair. The child is experiencing enough stress with being placed within a new family.

  • Elaine Schwartz

    Elaine Schwartz

    November 11th, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    @grayson: You would be surprised at all the things the mind-body connection can affect. To call it selfish makes no sense. They have no more control over that happening to them than you do a sneeze or your heartbeat. Your statement doesn’t hold water.

  • MurrayWoodward


    November 11th, 2011 at 3:28 PM

    @Grayson: Anyone with a selfish bone in their body wouldn’t be able to withstand the process that would get them to that point, so no they are not selfish.

    Adoption is an extremely stressful process where you can wait years to be approved or rejected. Imagine waiting that long to know about something you really want and maybe still find out you’re not getting it in the end. Even if you are approved, there can continue to be a long wait to find a child that’s a good match for your family. They don’t just place any old child with you. There has to be a compatibility there.

    The adoption process is certainly not simple nor all sunshine and roses.

  • Therese Cairns

    Therese Cairns

    November 11th, 2011 at 4:24 PM

    So we can’t even adopt a child these days without being overwhelmed with depression. Everything is making us depressed! With taxes, families, mental illness, physical illness, the economy…we can’t win! I will never understand why God made us this way!

  • Jeremiah Benson

    Jeremiah Benson

    November 11th, 2011 at 5:09 PM

    @Therese Cairns–If you want a biblical view, read Genesis and you will see that God cursed all womankind to be in pain for childbirth after Eve defied him and ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge. Perhaps if you don’t go through the physical pain of having a child, he wants you to experience the mental pain. If you want a scientific view, it’s hormones that causes major mood swings.

    Anyway, if God hadn’t made us that way we’d have no reason to ponder life and why he did, would we? ;)

  • Bert Santiago

    Bert Santiago

    November 11th, 2011 at 5:39 PM

    Adopting a child into your family should be a happy event, but for some the depression hits. It’s a very big responsibility to take on board and I think adoptive parents appreciate that a lot more than many biological parents do! That weight of responsibility could easily bring on depression when you think about it.

  • Lilly Rodgers

    Lilly Rodgers

    November 11th, 2011 at 6:03 PM

    Have you looked at the estimated cost of raising a child today??? That would depress anybody and give you a heart attack too! That’s why it’s better not to think about the financial burden you’re taking on when you have a baby and instead enjoy the unconditional love that flows between parents and children instead. :)

  • Selena Anne Vaughan

    Selena Anne Vaughan

    November 11th, 2011 at 6:14 PM

    @Lilly Rodgers –I did! CNN Money reported on it last September, and I looked it up again to check the stats.

    “The cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 for a middle-income, two-parent family averaged $226,920 last year (not including college), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s up nearly 40% — or more than $60,000 — from 10 years ago. Just one year of spending on a child can cost up to $13,830 in 2010, compared to $9,860 a decade ago.”

    It’s a miracle any parents, biological or adoptive, ISN’T depressed!

  • grayson


    November 11th, 2011 at 8:16 PM

    @ eveyone here who is dissing me- I am not saying that there are no changes that take place when you adopt a child. But couldn’t you also say that these are people who have probably wanted this for a very long time, so you would assume that they are going to be a little better prepared for what the adoption process and bring home a new child is going to be like. I just happen to think that if a child is what you want then you have to be prepared for the roller coaster ride that they can bring.

  • Rosie


    November 11th, 2011 at 11:12 PM

    @ grayson. I am not trying to diss you, but you have to open your mind to know that not everyone can predict what they will feel when they bring the child home. They also can not predict what the relationship/connection will be between them and the child. The child is a huge variable here. How will the child respond to the adoptive parents? The child has been through a major trauma. Maybe the child’s wishes/expectations are different than the adoptive parent’s. Really, most first time parents are not prepared for the stres
    ses of parenthood, why would adoptive parents be any different?

  • Jenna


    November 13th, 2011 at 5:32 AM

    My husband got the baby blues WAY more than I did! Yes it is overwhelming, but no different than what parents have been doing for eternal time. You just get through it.

  • rebecca


    November 14th, 2011 at 5:16 PM

    This is not something to play around with. If you think that either parent has those post partum blues adopted parents or not, you have to seek help for them. There have been far too many children who have lost their lives as a result.

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