Why Adopted Children Still Struggle Over Time

I noticed an article in the Atlantic, about much higher rates of disability, behavior and learning problems, suspensions.  Lower achievement on reading, math, and science assessment tests.  They can’t figure it out.

There must be something attractive about living in a constant fog of mystery.  Who knew that dogs bite men?




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137 Responses to Why Adopted Children Still Struggle Over Time

  1. I can’t imagine being that stupid–and I’m adopted.

  2. Cpluskx says:

    Best time/place to adopt kids was post ww2 Europe, Poland area.

    • DataExplorer says:

      Aren’t Poles the butt of a lot of jokes about not being bright? And judging by the fact their economy has not caught up with the West, despite taking in zero Third World immigrants, I am beginning to think that those old stereotypes are true and that their comparable IQ test results are not capturing the full range of intelligence.

      • Paul Joslin says:

        In the US, the stereotype of Poles was “not very bright”. Balancing that, Poles, Czechs, and Hungarians had the reputation of clannish but hard workers for industry. During the European influx (1870s-1910s), Poles who migrated tended to not speak English, take physical labor jobs, and not assimilate. I’ve also seen claims that they were less likely to educate and were caught up in Anti-Catholic prejudice. I haven’t seen an explanation as to why that didn’t affect the Irish and Italians to the same degree.

      • Highlander says:

        Gee-whiz Mr. Data, my grandmother was Polish and I scored 1500+ on the 1965 SATs, was a National Merit semi-finalist on the old non-PSAT NMSQT test, have a degree from the University of California, and still can serve a pretty good slice to either court. LOL!

        • Tom Mahony says:

          Polish jokes are a purely American phenomenon – France and England got the high IQ Poles – America got the working class

          • gcochran9 says:

            I don’t think that’s it.

            • Toddy Cat says:

              Yeah, the animosity of many Jewish-American comedians towards Poles had something to do with Polish jokes. As for Poland not catching up with the West, as far as I know, no country that had a significant period of Communist government has caught up with their never-Communist counterparts. I mean, China has grown fantastically over the last thirty years, and they still lag behind Taiwan. As Anatoly Karlin (no knee-jerk anti-Communist, by the way) has pointed out, Communism can really mess a country up for a long time.

              • JayMan says:

                Or perhaps those still behind long since ex-communist countries are biologically different in other ways related to success beyond just average IQ. Most if not all lagged behind NW European-descended countries before communism as well.

              • gcochran9 says:

                Stefan Banach.

              • akarlin says:

                Most if not all lagged behind NW European-descended countries before communism as well.

                Visegrad and the Mediterranean were at a broadly similar level of economic development in the 1930s, at ~50% of Core Europe levels.

                In 1990, the former had declined to ~30%, while the latter had converged to ~80%.

                Today, almost 30 years after Communism, Visegrad and the Med are again broadly similar, at 70%-80% of Core Europe levels.

          • Cantman says:

            Germans also have jokes about Poles being stupid.

            And of course today half of Poland is half German anyway.

            • gcochran9 says:

              Are you assuming that they let the Germans stay in the land the Poles picked up at the end of WWII? Because they didn’t.

            • gcochran9 says:

              Marian Rejewski wasn’t exactly stupid.

            • Michael Daxhammer says:

              German jokes about Poles center more around their said thievish and fraudulent behaviour than really about stupidness compared to other nationality jokes. Classic jokes like: “What’s car keys in Polish? -Crowbar.” or “Come visit Poland, your car and bike already are there.” Compared to other folks Poles are more European in values and behaviour with better and more German work ethic and industriousness than more Eastern or Soutern neighbouring countries.

          • Greying Wanderer says:

            Poland was one of the first countries to put iodine in their salt – 1930 something, after USA and Switzerland iirc

      • William O. B'Livion says:

        Every immigrant group that was not english speaking was thought of as “dumb” because our primary evaluation of how smart someone is is their ability to talk to us.

        French got somewhat of a pass because clearly they were so cool. and Germany because there were so many of them early on.

        • “Dumb Swedes. Squareheads.”

          • Michael Daxhammer says:

            Reminds me of my fellow Spanish students in my term abroad in Madrid 20 years ago: Every time my behaviour was deemed too exact, correct or minute, they called me cabeza cuadrada. Still suffer ineffably from that one . But also was one of my first experiences that maybe those perceived differences in behaviour can partially explain why Spain aint Germany.

          • Jacob says:

            I had no idea that was a slur. I had a friend in high school of Nordic heritage who had a square head, and people occasionally made fun of him for it.

            My college girlfriend had the female version of that look, her jawline was presumably sculpted by some Norse deity. It didn’t look masculine, but I was confident that, if we had sons, it would on them.

      • Gringo says:

        Because a comment with a link got stopped by the spam filter, I will make a comment without a link. . From 1995 to 2016, Poland’s per capita income-GDP per capita, PPP (constant 2011 international $) – has gone from 38% to 68% of the Euro area.

        No, Poland hasn’t caught up yet, but neither have any former Soviet Bloc countries. Since 1995, Poland’s economy has performed better than most former Soviet bloc countries, as its rank in GDP per capita, PPP (constant 2011 international $) in former Soviet Bloc countries has gone from 8th to 6th from 1995 to 2016.

        Data from the World Bank.

      • Michel Rouzic says:

        No. I’ve lived for several years in France, Ireland, Germany and Poland, and I can tell you the Polish are doing fine intellectually, the Irish on the other hand can be quite shockingly stupid in my experience. If you look at the pre-WWII history of Polish people you’ll find many reasons to believe that they’re just as bright as the rest, the most recent example would be how they made some of the best early 1930s military planes (PZL).

        There’s a very good reason for their economic situation, and it’s so simple that it’s sad that I have to explain it (I’ll assume you’re American), the difference is communism vs Marshall Plan gibs (and for some lucky countries, war reparations). That’s why since communism ended in Poland the economic growth never stopped, even in 2008, and it’s still going up strongly, so it is catching up. Do you also wonder if maybe East Germans aren’t as smart as their western counterparts? Poland is still recovering from decades of communism, WWII and 123 years of being split between 3 empires, it will take a few decades for the GDP and the infrastructure to catch up.

    • Frau Katze says:

      No the best time was from before abortion was legal.

      • gcochran9 says:

        Poland was chock-full of orphans just after WWII.

      • William O. B'Livion says:

        Both my brother and I were adopted pre-roe.

        We are both upper middle class, he is in the 2nd standard deviation of IQ and I’m about 1/2 deviation further up the scale.

        I struggle with my weight, but I’m only borderline obese.

        I think he struggled more with the notion of being adopted than I did, but I’m a bit aspie.

        • Frau Katze says:

          Get your DNA on 23andme. My sister discovered an adopted half-brother that way. We aren’t adoptees but have the same father. Neither of us have experience with adoption but my sister’s a genealogy buff. This took places in the early 1950s. More details in a comment I left at the end. He found his mother’s family the same way.

      • Smithie says:

        I was thinking how I knew a kind of crazy family (3 generations), in which the one person who was sane was adopted. It didn’t even occur to me to think about Roe v. Wade, but chronologically it would explain it.

      • Michel Rouzic says:

        But if you adopt children who would have been aborted had it been an option, then they might themselves be more inclined towards aborting than the average.

    • Michel Rouzic says:

      Yep, if you’re gonna adopt, pick kids who aren’t there because of their parents’ inheritable shortcomings. So war orphans would be a good choice.

  3. pyrrhus says:

    Sad but true…I have seen disastrous adoptions that broke up marriages.

    • albatross says:

      That also sometimes happens with biological kids, though. You have a kid who’s nothing but trouble, constantly demanding all your time and efforts to keep him in school/out of jail, and that puts a hell of a strain on your marriage. Similar things happen with biological kids with major health issues–I know a couple whose marriage was destroyed (though it took awhile to be formally declared dead) by having a baby with Downs and a bunch of associated health problems–she died after about a year of extensive effort and constant care and medical interventions.

  4. DataExplorer says:

    It is part of our evolutionary extinct to want to “save humanity”, and to do that we must always see other humans as victims of their circumstance. Hominid groups that did not have an emotional attachment to “saving the innocent” would have died out.

    • JerryC says:

      Adoption is mostly a western custom, though, and not really practiced among all “hominid groups”. In Japan, for instance, adoption is very rare. Orphans and abandoned children live in orphanages.

      • gcochran9 says:

        It’s a new custom.

        • Recusant says:

          Well Julius Caeser did adopt Octavian – the future Augustus – so it can’t be that new.

          • Lycurgus says:

            Caeser adopted Octavian as an adult (they were related as well). What’s more, that form of adoption was nothing like our more recent practice of adopting young presumably parentless children– see Trajan adopting Hadrian.. and Hadrian adopting Antoninus Pius… and Antoninus Pius adopting… you get the picture.

            The Romans like the Greeks just abandoned to the wolves or at least to the elements unwanted children. If I recall correctly Claudius even had to ban people abandoning unwanted children and slaves on the Isola Tiberina. They were abandoned because they were defective.

            Adoption as we think of it probably happened like it’s portrayed in some myths, i.e. a shepherd or some schmuck coming across an abandoned infants in the woods and bringing it home. Heck, couldn’t have been a bad idea, lotta the time it ended up being half god, or the rightful heir to the throne or something. Good ROI.

            • ghazisiz says:

              Often the abandoned babies were collected to be raised as slaves.

              • gcochran9 says:

                I don’t think it paid. In a fairly Malthusian Classical world, the advantage of a slave was that you’d captured him after someone else raised him. When the Roman Empire stopped conquering people, slavery withered away, except as an occasional punishment. Now it would have paid in the American South: food was abundant and slaves grew rapidly by natural increase..

              • Peter Lund says:

                What happened to the Sicilian corn slaves that were already there?

              • TWS says:

                Please, not the ‘S’ word. Let’s say ‘Hereditary Servant’ instead. It makes anthropologists feel better.

            • Wasn’t Moses adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter?

        • Given that the Hammurabi code (laws 185-191) specifies the duties of adopters, I’d say you’re talking bollox again Greg. I’d be politer about this, but we know that you see politeness as weakness.

          • Lycurgus says:

            @HelenaHandbasket Nonsense, infanticide was the norm in antiquity. That’s not to say adoption didn’t happen. But let’s say there’s a ratio of infanticide to putting up for adoption the unwanted (not counting the unfortunate whose parents die of TB or something, in which case if there’s no extended family think of street urchins). That is, if a family can’t support the kid or it’s disabled they leave it out in the woods versus in an orphanage. In antiquity that’s slanted heavily in favour of infanticide. Today it’s the other way around. Only the most unfortunate of infants are taken off of the respirator or otherwise ‘exposed’ in hospitals.

            Adoption in antiquity was a practice among the rich for securing male heirs when none were otherwise present. Marrying daughters to an uncle or the adopted son was another way to keep property in the family.

            Contemporary academics now trying to make the case that infanticide was rare among the ancients (and that they value or thought about humanity in a similar way to us moderns) are the same sort that argue that ancient Romans were a champion of gay rights. No joke, there’s a new wave of classicists who argue that the lessons to glean from antiquity are that multiculturalism, diversity, and tolerance of sexual minorities are the way to go, following the example of the ancients of course.

              • Greying Wanderer says:

                all c. 40 weeks old – seems odd – a brothel waiting for the babies to be born before killing them

              • Cloveoil says:

                @Greying Wanderer,
                That sensationalist claim was refuted also by the sex ratio of the babies, and the Yewden site might not have been a brothel. Romans also had access to contraceptives and abortifacient drugs – it doesn’t make sense. Now I remember foetal and newborn remains being associated with Roman brothels elsewhere, but its something rare.

                Infanticide has to have been widespread enough in Rome and Greece or they wouldn’t have made laws to prevent the practice; the fact they had laws against it demonstrates societal disapproval. The Christian notion of the sanctity of life, as absurd as it might be in some ways, was a more efficient way of preserving the family size of free-born Roman citizens. Christian values grew out of Classical civilisation, so we’re not that different.

          • The Z Blog says:

            Adoption in the ancient world was nothing like adoption today. Adopting out your first born son to another family in need of an heir was like marrying the daughter off to cement a political alliance.

          • gcochran9 says:

            [ The nobility of the Germanic, Celtic, and Slavic cultures that dominated Europe after the decline of the Roman Empire denounced the practice of adoption.[15] In medieval society, bloodlines were paramount; a ruling dynasty lacking a “natural-born” heir apparent was replaced, a stark contrast to Roman traditions. The evolution of European law reflects this aversion to adoption. English Common Law, for instance, did not permit adoption since it contradicted the customary rules of inheritance. In the same vein, France’s Napoleonic Code made adoption difficult, requiring adopters to be over the age of 50, sterile, older than the adopted person by at least 15 years, and to have fostered the adoptee for at least six years.[16] Some adoptions continued to occur, however, but became informal, based on ad hoc contracts. ]

            Legalization of modern-style adoption is relative recent. England, 1926. Germany, 1977.

            [ The period 1945 to 1974, the baby scoop era, saw rapid growth and acceptance of adoption as a means to build a family.[40] Illegitimate births rose three-fold after World War II, as sexual mores changed. Simultaneously, the scientific community began to stress the dominance of nurture over genetics, chipping away at eugenic stigmas.[41][42] In this environment, adoption became the obvious solution for both unwed people and infertile couples.[43]\ – too bad they were substantially wrong.

            • Highlander says:

              “In this environment, adoption became the obvious solution for both unwed people and infertile couples.[43]\ – too bad they were substantially wrong.”

              I’m not so sure about that. I know several adoptees from my cohort of early boomers that seem to have turned out OK. Their adoptive parents had fertility problems and were unable to conceive or the wife able to carry a child to birth. Perhaps the satisfactory results had to do to the standards followed by adoption agencies in the 1940’s. Most of them were pretty strict about matching the children to the adoptive parents in terms of both ethnic background and religion.

              Admittedly my anecdotal sample is from the white middle classes and reflects policies that are no longer followed. In the current “open market” of independent lawyer arranged adoptions white infants command a huge premium.


              • gcochran9 says:

                The extent of problems has varied with time. If the parents died of cholera or were hit by a train, say, their kids would have been close to a random draw from the population, and would have average performance. Suppose the kids come from a population enriched in schizophrenics and drug addicts: they will, on the whole, score below average and have more problems than average. Suppose the adoptive mother is a career woman that didn’t try to have kids until it was too late: even though the kids adopted from the cholera family are average, that means they’ll score lower than she did, probably. Racial differences: kids from high-scoring races do better, those from low-scoring groups worse.

                When the scientific community stressed the importance of nurture over genetics, they were dead wrong.

                I don’t think there’s any reason o think that adoption itself has any effect.

              • Greying Wanderer says:

                “I’m not so sure about that. I know several adoptees from my cohort of early boomers that seem to have turned out OK.”

                i’d guess adopted kids from a strict culture are more likely to be the result of unlucky accidents whereas in a slack culture those kind of kids might be swamped by the result of slack people being slack.

              • Fred Smith says:

                A family friend of mine was adopted as a baby in the 1950s. She has an older sister who was also adopted during that time as a baby. They are not related. The family friend went on to get a PhD in mathematics at a top tier school and became a respected professor at a Ivy League business school whereas the sister ended up as a troubled alcoholic who ended up in menial jobs and produced two children who became addicts. Her IQ seems average to slightly below.

          • saintonge235 says:

            It mostly specifies how custody disputes are to be settled. Only #191 specifies any duty of the adopting parent to the adopted son (girls are not mentioned at all). https://nearchaeology.blogspot.com/2009/02/hammurabis-law-code-and-adoption.html

            The fact that all the laws specify “sons” is interesting. The remarks on the Code in the Britannica 11th edition suggest most adoption was a form of apprenticeship. The adopted son had obligations to his adoptive father that would make the relationship profitable for the father. (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/ancient/hammpre.asp) The relationships don’t seem to have much in common with modern adoption.

    • RCB says:

      That assumes a pretty strong group-selection effect. Maybe possible in smaller human bands. Has to overcome the personal cost of taking on the adoptee.

  5. reziac says:

    Here’s a parallel stat from the CDC: “rescue” dogs are about 18% of the pet population, but commit 50% of the serious bites. (With two cases I know of where a ‘rescue’ has killed a human within 24 hours of being ‘adopted’.)

    Fact is when you adopt someone else’s rejects, you acquire someone else’s problems. The normal adoptive instinct (that is, willingness to take in others’ children at need) applies to ingroup children. Stretching it to every child everywhere is pathological altruism, and I find the results entirely predictable. Not to mention it is now being pushed as a way of replacing Western children.

    And my cynical little voice wishes to point out that pet ‘rescue’ is extremely profitable (don’t believe me? read their IRS documents, with an awareness that “administrative expenses” is charity-speak for “owner’s salary”, and that other expenses magically grow to consume donations). How’s the profit margin on human adoptions??

    • pyrrhus says:

      Rackets abound…Adoption agencies have been known to lie, or conceal the truth, about the background of children they are pushing for adoption.

    • RCB says:

      From a genetic evolutionary perspective, taking in the children of distantly related members of the same race is almost certainly pathological altruism, too.

    • aciddc says:

      Huh, I thought from your point about rescues this was going to be an argument against the problems adopted children have being genetic. Rescue dogs are generally being sent to new homes based on the flaws of their owners, not some innate genetic issue with the dog. Parallels with behavioral issues among human adoptees who have had comparable experiences are thus evidence that for the humans like the dogs it’s not a genetic issue.

      • gcochran9 says:

        It’s a genetic issue.

        • ghano says:

          is there any scientific evidence that omega 3 nutrients and magnisium threonate and games such as dual n back rise iq.

      • Anon says:

        “Rescue dogs are generally being sent to new homes based on the flaws of their owners, not some innate genetic issue with the dog.”

        Wrong, unless we’re counting being ignorant of dog breed differences as a flaw of the owner. Although judging by your blog you are used to being wrong very often.

    • JayMan says:

      The normal adoptive instinct (that is, willingness to take in others’ children at need) applies to ingroup children. Stretching it to every child everywhere is pathological altruism, and I find the results entirely predictable. Not to mention it is now being pushed as a way of replacing Western children.

      Oh Jesus!

    • Tanturn says:

      “The normal adoptive instinct (that is, willingness to take in others’ children at need) applies to ingroup children. Stretching it to every child everywhere is pathological altruism”

      What’s the in-group? Family? Clan? Ethnicity? Race? Species? Regardless, I don’t think any form of altruism has much to do with it. People adopt because they can’t have biological children.

      • Anon says:

        “People adopt because they can’t have biological children.”

        Strangely, people adopt even when they do have biological children.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “How’s the profit margin on human adoptions??”

      big enough to provide incentives for child services to snatch kids most suitable for adoption

      • David Chamberlin says:

        Prospective parents first shell out $120,000 and up trying to get pregnant. IVF alone is $12,000 a pop. Then they shell out somewhere around $80,000 to successfully adopt. That is a $200,000.00 investment to have a child that has a 25% chance of having disabilities. Approximately 40% of the time the fertility problem comes from the male. When this is determined the cost of artificial insemination is somewhere around $500 per visit. Sperm donors are typically bright college kids, so it seems a no brainer for prospective parents to go the route of sperm donation rather than adoption when the prospective father is infertile.

    • donald j. tingle says:

      Now you’ve done it. You’ve dissed Buster, Lily, and Sparky. They were not rejects but obviously left their former homes to live in our better home. We’ve had six dogs we personally rescued from the streets, and two from shelters, with no problems. Of the two other “breed” dogs we bought, one turned out to be crazy and dangerous, as, it turned out on investigation, was apparently her mother.

      I guess if the dogs we rescued from the streets had tried to bite us instead of lick our faces, we probably would not have taken them in.

      On the other hand, my three adopted cousins have had more problems than the rest of my extended family combined.

  6. Smithie says:

    A few years ago, I attended a wedding. One of the flower girls was adopted. It was remarked to me that there was a oddness in the way that she seemed to stare. This was in sharp contrast to her rather normal-seeming, non-blood cousin, also a flower girl.

    Curiously, the mother seemed to believe in heredity, but also seemed to have a somewhat poor understanding of it, believing that she was sure to have a fourth son, and not the daughter she wanted, if she conceived naturally.

    • David Chamberlin says:

      Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is staggeringly common. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fetal_alcohol_spectrum_disorder
      This link says 4.7% of North American women whom are pregnant are alcoholics and FASD is estimated to effect between 2 to 5% of people in the United States and Western Europe. That is what the link says, but I have a hard time believing it. I had no idea it was that widespread.

      • James GW says:

        Do you have a hard time believing it?

        Drinking is the primary non-work activity of most people I know my age (late 20s). This is what weekend plans, dates, etc. are built around.

        And I’m talking about an elite group.

        Go to blue collar or below (the criminal class) and its the sheer madness of lights out drinking and/or drugs on a daily basis.

        Most pregnancies are accidents. Alcohol is often involved. It doesn’t always get better from there for those poor zygotes.

        • Cloveoil says:

          Can you think of a cultural practice that is more harmful? The closest thing must be the opium craze of the 19th century.

        • gcochran9 says:

          It’s a lot less common than it used to be.

          • David Chamberlin says:

            Makes sense, every pregnant women is indoctrinated to not touch alcohol these days. The mothers of the four FASD men I knew combined a really bad combination, cocaine and alcohol. When you do coke you can keep right on drinking so that your blood alcohol levels can go to ultra high toxic levels.

      • JayMan says:

        FASD might not exist.

        • Frau Katze says:

          Why do you think that?

          • JayMan says:

            Genetic confound.

            • Beregost says:

              Preposterous. Ethanol is a multi-organ toxin, with a lethal dose well within reach of a determined individual, crosses the placental barrier, acutely teratogenic in rodents, chronically screwy-uppy in primate models.

              Mediated by genetic susceptibility? Sure, just like thalidomide embryopathy.

            • David Chamberlin says:

              FASD definitely exists. I want more evidence than a wikipedia article to convince me that the percentages are as high as 2 to 5% of the public. Reading the link I put up there is a long list of physical characteristics that denote FASD, that in itself is pretty convincing that it is very real condition. FASD was only recognized as a problem in 1973. What we do know is 25% of adopted children have serious problems diagnosed by kindergarten. What percentage of the women that put up their babies for adoption are drug or alcohol abusers? I would bet it is pretty high.

              I would take from that information that I would try all other options to have a child before I would adopt, and prospective parents very often do this at incredible expense.

          • benespen says:

            I’ve also become pretty suspicious after reading up on it. The stated incidence rates seem way too high, and the cross-country rates don’t make sense either. Fetal alcohol syndrome isn’t subtle, and often takes a surprisingly large amount of drinking to cause. FASD, on the other hand, is a fuzzy and nebulous thing, supposedly caused by tiny amounts of ethanol.

      • Smithie says:

        Where I grew up, I think I knew about one person who suffered from fetal-alcohol syndrome. Amateur diagnosis by me, terribly unscientific, snap statistical analysis, based on age cohort. Let’s call it about 0.4% in a slightly upscale suburb.

        He was mixed-race and raised by his white grandmother, so that is why I lean towards that diagnosis.

        • David Chamberlin says:

          I managed hundreds of constructions workers over my career and I knew two sets of bothers, four people, that were were definitely FASD. The mothers that drink hard also do a lot of coke, math, heroin, you name it. Nothing wrecks a human faster than meth, the users starve themselves. What would that do to a developing baby?

      • DRA says:

        The good news about fetal alcohol syndrome, or FASD, is that it isn’t hereditary. The bad news is that an over-fondness for alcohol can be genetic.

        An adopted son of the Jr. Highschool principal in my hometown customarily had a case of beer in his car by age 17. His father was an chronic alcoholic from a nearby town. On the other hand, I never saw him drunk. But he was a steady drinker.

  7. David Chamberlin says:

    Combine the last two blog threads and conclude the following. Adopt a Korean or Chinese baby. The article says one out four adopted kids have a diagnosed disability in kindergarten, that is staggering. Oftentimes less severe disabilities are not even diagnosed by age 5 so the percentage of adopted kids with disabilities has to be even higher.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      a certain kind of man targets women/girls with mental disabilities – there was one i knew of who’d had something like a dozen kids with different men (i forget the exact number) and each one was eventually taken away cos she was incapable of looking after them.

      clown world.

  8. albatross says:

    When you don’t have the right mental toolkit, a lot of the world looks incomprehensible.

    • Jim says:

      What’s incomprehensible to me is how people like Bill Gates can believe that virtually all children are college material. I’ve had people tell me that the fact that 50% of the best chess players over the past 150 years have been Ashkenazi Jewish is cultural despite the total absence of chess playing in pre 19th century Jewish culture and the prestige of chess among European gentiles dating back to at least 1000 AD.

      I found these things incomprehensible but I probably don’t have the right mental toolkit.

      • gcochran9 says:

        He says it. I don’t know if he believes it. I need a precise definition of belief: I’ll settle for the implied reason behind a choice you make when your life is at stake and nobody is watching or will ever hear about it.

  9. Ente says:

    This is actually something I have only given a little thought, but how representative are children being adopted away compared to “normal” children? Or more specifically, in which ways do children put up for adoption deviate (statistically) from non-adopted children? Do anyone have any knowledge and/or references regarding this?

    For example, it seems intuitively plausible that especially women who become single/teen mothers may be extra likely to put their children up for adoption. Of course, there are also those people who adopt from other countries like Angelina Jolie.

    • Anthony says:

      I suspect that some of the adoptable babies in the U.S. are from single mothers who didn’t get their shit together in time to get an abortion – probably as many or more than those who made the conscious choice to refuse abortion.

      Several of the traits that would lead to that outcome are strongly heritable.

  10. Surely significant says:

    “Parents who create disorganized attachment with their kids might be the sorts of parents who get their kids taken away and adopted out.
    This is surely a significant part of the issue. But defying conventional wisdom, Zill’s new report also suggests no difference between children adopted in infancy and those adopted later in life.”

    Stating the causal importance of some environmental factor (pre-k, teacher wokeness, “word gap,” stereotype threat) immediately before admitting that all of the evidence points to it being utterly irrelevant.

    What is it called, why do they do it, and how can they do it with a straight face?

    • Christopher B says:

      A few days ago AVI posted on his blog an article about possible connections between folic acid deficiencies in pregnancy being (loosely, for now) related to a number of psychological impacts. If you’re creating ‘disorganized attachment’ after birth, what’s the chances that you weren’t similarly disorganized during the pregnancy?

  11. saintonge235 says:

    Question: to what extent would you ascribe this to being ‘poor fits’ because of differing genetic backgrounds, so that parent and child don’t understand each other, as opposed to children put up for adoption being those that, genetically, are the ones you’d least like to adopt, statistically speaking?

    And what factors haven’t I thought of?

    • albatross says:

      I suspect that’s a part of the picture. A lot of families I know have several generations of high-achievers in them (my kids’ grandparents all have/had graduate degrees, as did two of their great-grandparents). Adopt an average kid into that family and they’re likely to be a bit of an outlier on the left end of the bell curve.

  12. saintonge235 says:

    “There must be something attractive about living in a constant fog of mystery. Who knew that dogs bite men?”

    Yes, there is. Everyone has emotional reactions to ideas, and some ideas make people feel bad. So they are faced with the choice of believing some idea, and feeling bad, or rejecting the idea, and feeling good. Most people choose to feel good.

  13. The Z Blog says:

    “One clue might be attachment theory, which holds that a strong bond with at least one nurturing adult—usually the mother—is essential to a child thriving … Infants and toddlers with a so-called “disorganized attachment” to their earliest caregivers—those who feel frightened of or dissociated from their parents—are more psychologically vulnerable later in life. Among other things, they have more problems regulating their emotions and managing conflicts without resorting to hostility. Parents who create disorganized attachment with their kids might be the sorts of parents who get their kids taken away and adopted out.”

    –Olga Khazan

    I looked up Olga. She does not look like a Khazan or an Olga. More like a Jennifer Smythe. She covers “gender and health” for the Atlantic. She has no math or science. She is an example of the what Sailer called “click-bait bubbleheads” now being hired by the media.

  14. Frau Katze says:

    Tangentially related: The experience of finding out that you have an adopted half-sibling. My sister had her DNA on 23andme and one day got an email saying he was an adopted child and 23andme had identified her as half-sister. She’s a genealogy buff (family trees and such) and was quite excited. He had the details on our father’s family tree back to about 1800 before the day was out.

    He and my sister live close enough together to arrange a meeting. He seems a pretty normal guy.

    He eventually found his mother from a someone identified as a cousin that wasn’t on our side. The cousin was willing to email, but one woman in the family seems to be the spokesperson in chief and told him to get lost. He couldn’t possibly be her half-brother.

    That’s where it stands. There’s just my sister and I in our family, but his mom had about 9 or 10 children. Maybe one of them will break ranks.

    Our half-brother was conceived while both parents were married (in the early 1950s).

    Ask yourself: how would you respond?

    • My nephew has a similar situation. His ancestry.com results identify another in their files as probable first cousin. As there is of course no guarantee that people are from the same generation, she could also be an aunt or 1st once-removed. His mother was closed-adopted into a Jewish family, and his profile (25% Jewish) compared to hers suggested that they were from some Jewish girl who got pregnant and delivered in Boston in 1968.

      No, said the woman. That was impossible. All the women in the family lived in California at that time and none had ever gone to Boston. Well, we don’t want her to be a pariah in her family, but we told her to keep her ears open and get back to us. Because a sister, cousin, or aunt had indeed gone to Boston to have a baby in 1968

      • albatross says:

        I wonder what the rate of error in those reported results is.

        • gcochran9 says:

          I’ve seen Razib Khan pick up a third of a percent Bengali in Dan MacArthur, originating from the wife of a member of the Bengal Lancers, 200 years ago.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Here is the first Razib post. 23andMe said 1.4%. The post starts by complaining about 23andMe’s old algorithm, which was too biased towards Europe, but they had just changed algorithms. So he found it plausible and replicated it. But it’s not 1.4% spread over the whole genome, which he probably would have dismissed as noise. Instead, it’s most of one chromosome, which is a lot more plausible.

            More Razib and Dienekes. I don’t think Razib is serious when he is so specific as to say Bengali; that’s just what he had on hand. Dienekes had a bunch of groups and found Carnatic the best match, although I’m not sure he had Bengalis.

            Daniel MacArthur had a ggg-grandfather in India, which sounds a lot more recent than 200 years ago. If his ggg-grandmother were full blooded Indian, then his ancestry would be 3%, 2x the observed number, but the discrete nature of genetics puts a lot of noise in these numbers.

            • Douglas Knight says:

              Well, I shouldn’t put words in his mouth. I don’t know what his threshold is for dismissing things as noise. I don’t know what it was then and it’s probably lower now, six years later, because data and techniques improve. Indeed, the post starts out about how the algorithm had just been improved. But he certainly seems to trust a big patch on one chromosome more than the same amount spread across the whole genome.

        • DRA says:

          Don’t know about error rate, but my wife and I had 23andMe analysis early on. My results recently show some MENA and south European, <1%, where none was reported previously. My wife had a different change of similar magnitude.

        • Error rates of a percent or two are likely common, which is why ancestry.com, at least, quotes a range. Error rates of “You test as a first cousin,” that turn out to be “no we’re not related” are vanishingly small.

  15. biz says:

    So basically these days the children who are put up for adoption are disproportionately the offspring of women with poor time preference and tendencies toward addiction plus the low-conscientiousness and low SES status men that those women tend to be sexually attracted to. The adoptees inherit the genetic basis for the mental traits that their biological parents had, and thus are on average likelier than the average non-adopted child to have those same mental traits.

    I figured all of that out, minus some of the precise wording, when I was about 10 years old or so. I didn’t read The Atlantic article – is it really escaping them?

    • Steve Sailer says:

      In the postwar era, you’d sometimes see adoptions from higher class biological parents to lower class adoptive parents, as with Steve Jobs, whose genetic parents were grad students (and his biological father was the nephew of the Foreign Minister of Syria). His biological parents then had another child together, the accomplished novelist Mona Simpson.

      Jobs’ adoptive parents were high school dropouts. But they had been checked over by the adoption agency and were extremely stable and made fine parents for him.

      Jobs’ adoptive parents were so pleased with little Steve that they adopted a sister for him. I’ve felt sorry for her, being a presumably average girl whose conniving older brother is (literally) the World’s Greatest Salesman.

      • Cloveoil says:

        “Jobs’ adoptive parents were high school dropouts. But they had been checked over by the adoption agency and were extremely stable and made fine parents for him.”

        A proper social credit system would take this into account: that a lot of dropouts are smart people who didn’t feel their talents were valued. Conservative-leaning Americans are more likely to drop out of college, so presumably high school as well. Even without checking for genes that might influence behaviours, its still easy to profile people by their life histories and personality traits instead of their educational or economic status.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          But there’s not much evidence that Jobs’ adoptive parents were high IQ people who got overlooked by the system. They weren’t high potential people, but they were good people. And they did figure out early on that little Steve was much smarter than they were and made sacrifices for him so he could fulfill his potential.

          • Cloveoil says:

            But you said, “they had been checked over by the adoption agency and were extremely stable”.

            Maybe not high IQ but its something better – optimal personality for family building. Anyone stable makes a better home for a kid than an awful lot of folks who start families, then divorce shortly later.

  16. crew says:

    Will selection find female mosquitoes that can detect and avoid infertile males?


  17. I don’t usually bother, but I sent an angry letter-to-the editor to The Atlantic over this one. I have five sons, three adopted, and we were in an international adoption network for over a decade. It’s just not that hard to figure out.

    • gcochran9 says:

      They have fixed wrong ideas on crime, education, foreign policy, many other things. I mean, American blacks have an enormous crime rate, but a good liberal knows that it’s all because the cops are out to get them. “She’s got a right to steal from us!”

      One the Mafia tried something like this – all this talk about the Cosa Nostra was anti-Italian prejudice. More exactly, Joe Colombo: he founded the Italian-American Civil Rights League. But it got too big and noisy, and the other Mob bosses began to suspect that Joe actually believed this shit, presumably because of tertiary syphilis. His brain mus have gone soft in the joint. So they had him hit. I can respect that.

      • Toddy Cat says:

        “So they had him hit”

        Way to fight those stereotypes…

      • The strongest answer to that (via Steve Sailer) is the homicide rate, particularly when considering the race of the victims and the neighborhoods they occurred in. You can keep falling back on arguments that the cops just send white boys fighting home but bust the black ones*, or that rapes by white boys get overlooked much more often*, but for a homicide you have a body you need an explanation for, and you can’t fabricate the existence of dead bodies anywhere but detective novels. The body count, and the race and location of the victims, is what it is. And that number averages 10-to-1 more frequently black. (Conviction 8-1 or even less.)

        The opposite is more likely true, but call it a wash. There are a lot of complicating factors.

  18. Eamonn Dwyer says:

    I’m Irish, generally a hard-hereditarian, and adopted, with an adopted brother from different parents. Born early 1980s when Ireland was still Catholic and abortion-via-‘holiday in London’ was less common; possibly a similar environment to pre-Roe US (so more middle class ancestry among the stock of adopted children). I definitely believe my adoption changed the course of my development and some life outcomes.

    My theory is that we have innate abandonment/orphan survival strategies that are triggered by early parental separation events. There are some examples in primates of ‘aunties’ adopting baby chimps. It’s kind of a version of parent-offspring conflict except in this case it’s a ‘parent-orphan’ conflict. The orphan attempts to trick a potential parent into caring/protecting for them – a kind of cuckoo effect. So crying, being needy, desperate, hijacking empathy. Another analogy; what an abadonded cat does when trying to find a new owner. Subsequent strategies would seek to deepen the relationship with the new parent. Relationships between parents / adopted children are in some cases -deeper- than with children by blood. Hence the literary trope of ‘cuckoo children’ inspiring jealousy among natural-born siblings. Such orphan survival strategies would have a net fitness benefit despite longterm development costs if they become fixed (rejection/ intimacy issues are common among adoptees which could reduce fertility).

    • Smithie says:

      In the distant past, I think kin networks and arranged marriages helped a lot with orphans. On an old census, I recall seeing one little girl who was taken into the household of her father’s brother and mother’s sister, since two brothers had married two sisters.

  19. albatross says:

    In modern times, we should expect teenaged mothers in the US who give their kids up for adoption to be religious, or at least embedded in pretty religious communities, so that getting an abortion didn’t seem like an option. Religiosity is somewhat heritable (like most things), so I guess we should expect adoptees to be somewhat more inclined toward religion than their adoptive parents.

    • My experience with adoption communities is that the parents are more likely to be religious, especially for older and special needs children, so the more-religious adopted children (I think your reasoning is sound there) might be a more even match than in the population at large.

    • Patrick Costello says:

      “In modern times, we should expect teenaged mothers in the US who give their kids up for adoption to be religious, or at least embedded in pretty religious communities”

      Modern times meaning today? I’d be shocked if this is actually the case. My sense of the typical 2018 parent who puts a child up for adoption is a young girl from a low-class, dysfunctional background (think Maury Povich) where having kids at a young age is considered a normal occurrence, if not an acceptable one. Sequence of events is something like this:
      -She finds out she’s pregnant (but my friend told me you can’t get pregnant if the girl’s on top!!)
      -The baby-daddy swears he’ll stay with her forever blah blah blah
      -At some point late in the pregnancy they break up due to their mutual impulsiveness and emotional lability
      -She panics and puts the kid up for adoption.

      Middle/upper class girls from tight-knit Mormon/Catholic/whatever backgrounds probably only rarely get pregnant out of wedlock anyways (birth control is quite effective these days), and if they do probably just get the abortion at an early stage (there being quite a gap between theory and practice for most “religious” Americans, regardless of denomination). Pre-70s, when birth control and abortion were much harder to come by, the situation was probably more like what you describe, and that might explain some of the anecdotes above: back then the conscientious, high-IQ college sweethearts who get into a wedlock situation was a real and regular thing, and adoption was the most/only socially and legally acceptable outcome.

      • Aidan Kehoe says:

        Middle/upper class girls from tight-knit Mormon/Catholic/whatever backgrounds probably only rarely get pregnant out of wedlock anyways (birth control is quite effective these days), and if they do probably just get the abortion at an early stage (there being quite a gap between theory and practice for most “religious” Americans, regardless of denomination). Pre-70s, when birth control and abortion were much harder to come by, the situation was probably more like what you describe, and that might explain some of the anecdotes above: back then the conscientious, high-IQ college sweethearts who get into a wedlock situation was a real and regular thing, and adoption was the most/only socially and legally acceptable outcome.

        A surprising thing to anyone (who has not worked technical support, or done any editing of others’ text, or had anything to do with a random selection of the general public) is that the pill is next to worthless in preventing this sort of pregnancy. A woman using it for contraception needs to take it every day (with some tolerance, depending on the pill, but usually not much); people, in general, (though less so your conscientious, high-IQ college sweethearts) are really terrible at doing something simple of that sort consistently. The women who don’t have the social capital to raise a child have far better outcomes with intrauterine devices and subdermal implants.

        Which is to say, yes, I agree wholeheartedly with you. The pill changed things for college girls, but not the majority of those fertile women for whom motherhood would have been suboptimal in a socio-economic sense. It was dysgenic. I don’t know that the current situation improves things for the future, but it’s almost certainly less dysgenic (ceteris paribus, which is a big caveat) than the situation thirty years ago.

  20. gothamette says:

    Wonder what the tests will say about the children of surrogate mothers. I can just imagine what happens when the kids asks, “who’s my mommy?” and Daddy answers, “We implanted the egg of a hard-up grad student in the uterus of an Indian untouchable. Take your pick.”

  21. Chuck Von Finch says:

    I went into international adoption with phys anth eyes wide open: different people are different; big whoop. I’m an atheist and hbd by profession and temperament. My infant-adopted kids are slightly above average middle schoolers now and very well adjusted. Like the parents of all healthy, well behaved, and nice kids, we count ourselves very lucky. I knew the job was dangerous when I took it, but parenting these great kids has been the best thing that ever happened to me.

  22. Bob says:


    “More than 85,000 children have been adopted from China and raised in the U.S. since China formally opened its doors to international adoption in 1992, according to State Department statistics. Nearly 90 percent of those adopted between 1999 and 2013 were girls. The few boys given up for adoption almost always had cleft palates, missing limbs, heart defects or other special needs. (In more recent years, many of the girls adopted have also had special needs, whereas in the earlier years of China’s international adoption program, thousands of healthy baby girls became daughters to families in the U.S. and other countries.)”

    It seems the parents that adopted Chinese girls made out pretty well. It will be interesting to see going forward the integration of these girls. Will they tend to resegregate with marriages to other Han descendants, or will they tend to marry primarily from the communities they were raised in.

    • gcochran9 says:

      A Harvard faculty member told me that Chinese girls were the adoptee of choice among his colleagues.

    • crew says:

      I am aware of one case of adoption of two unrelated Chinese children by an American couple.

      The female married a white American. The male remains unmarried as far as I know.

      However, a Chinese female I know was not impressed with female.

  23. gda says:

    A first cousin of mine adopted 2 “mixed-race” children from the Dominican Republic.

    The male has grown into a person who cannot keep a job, and who is the “baby daddy” to 3 kids from 3 different mothers. He’s 27, and still sponging off his mother.

    The 25-yr-old female is living on welfare, will at least work a bit, has a child, and has just split from her drug-dealing partner. Her mother (who is very religious) has washed her hands of her.

    I was leery of this SJW adoption from the start, long before my exposure to HBD. So not an unexpected result.

    Perhaps things work out better if one can at least select adoptees that are in the same IQ range, rather that 2SD’s below that of the parent.

    That just doesn’t work.

  24. adreadline says:

    ”The new report floats maternal substance abuse in pregnancy as another possible explanation”

    Repeat with me: anything but genetics, anything but genetics, anything but genetics

  25. gothamette says:

    Adoptee Jeff Bezos became the richest man in the world today.

    • JerryC says:

      Bezos wasn’t adopted by strangers like the kids in the Atlantic study, he was with his biological mother his whole childhood.

      • gothamette says:

        Looked it up — you’re quite right, he’s not an adoptee – he was adopted by his mom’s 2nd husband. Thank you for the correction.

        Well, it just proves that the one X chromosome guys get from Mom is very, very important!

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