Disclosure and identity experiences of adults abandoned as babies: A qualitative study

Lorraine Sherr, Kathryn J. Roberts & Natasha Croome - Cogent Psychology


There is intense debate regarding the disclosure experience of those children born from new technologies, surrogacy or adoption, yet no single study of those adopted after being abandoned as infants. This qualitative study examined disclosure for adult survivors of abandonment. Sixteen interviews were recorded and coded. A deductive approach to thematic analysis was used to create higher order themes and sub-themes. Findings are centred around the experience of disclosure, the process of disclosure specifically exploring the role of half-truths and finally the impact of disclosure on the search for identity and self. Disclosure was often delayed with traumatic effect. Adoption disclosure was separated from abandonment disclosure. Abandonment facts were often discovered at life event moments—weddings, death of an adoptive parent or the birth of a baby. Abandoned babies, as adults, often resorted to press/media to track their original circumstances, to seek out relatives and finders. Such searches were emotion filled, at high personal cost and often with dead-end consequences. Naming (e.g. after a railway station or shop name) was often linked to place or person surrounding the abandonment circumstances and this amplified the pain when discovered. Most had a clear concept of their mother, yet none had contemplated or hankered after their father. These rare insights have implications for future research and policy.