Is adopted child syndrome a valid diagnosis?

It seems these days that troubled kids are a dime-a-dozen. With over 5 million children diagnosed with ADHD, depression, and anti-social disorders in the US alone, the world is left to wonder what is really going on. Now, add to the mix a relatively new term, Adopted Child Syndrome (ACS) and you have an entirely new name for a very old problem.

What is adopted child syndrome?

Yet another way to describe rebellious, deviant behavior among children and adolescents, Adopted Child Syndrome is defined as a dissociative disorder. It is best used to describe children who have undergone adoption and that exhibit the following:

Defiance of authority


Difficulty in school

Behaviors such as lying, stealing, and over-involvement in fantasy

Manipulative and easily frustrated

Multiple attempts to run away

Lack of remorse or guilt

Difficulty in bonding with others

Violent tendencies

Who has ACS?

While the American Psychiatric Association does not validate, nor accept ACS as an actual disorder, its originator, David Kirschner insists that the condition does, in fact, exist. Claiming that “most adoptees are not disturbed…” Kirschner believes that the small percentage of those who exhibit symptoms fall under the classification. It is suggested by some who support the validity of ACS in the psychological community that most children who are diagnosed with the disorder were those who were adopted after the age of 6 months.

Why do children suffer from ACS?

Proponents of the classification believe that much of these symptoms are the result of detachment, displacement, and failure of adoptive parents to disclose the child’s origins.

What Is Treatment for Adopted Child Syndrome?

Psychotropic drugs, increased counseling, and identity therapy are often used to diminish symptoms and work to “rehabilitate” sufferers.

What Can be done to prevent Adopted Child Syndrome?

As ACS is not officially backed by the American Psychiatric Association, there is little offered by way of prevention for the disorder.  However, many professionals agree that full disclosure of the child’s adoption status and information regarding biological parents is the best start.  Early intervention, consistent love, and discipline, along with continued counseling are also the best defense.

Because this idea is not endorsed by the APS, parents of adopted children should take heed before attempting to self-diagnose their adopted child’s anti-social behavior.  If you or someone you know has a child who is currently showing signs of ACS, please contact a trained psychologist for evaluation and treatment.