The Trauma of Relinquishment: The Long-term Impact of Relinquishment on Birthmothers
who Lost their Infants to Adoption during the Years 1965-1972

Due to the traumatic nature of relinquishment, reading this material may awaken buried feelings or revive forgotten memories.  This can be a cathartic, healing experience. However, if you should feel overwhelmed by these feelings, do not continue reading. Seek the help of a qualified counselor, preferably one who is familiar with adoption/relinquishment issues. 

ABSTRACT. This study examined the long-term impact of relinquishment on birthmothers and explored the social construction of the birthmother experience. A survey was conducted to obtain measures of post-relinquishment stress symptoms, emotions, behaviors, and perceptions. A gender-specific health inventory and demographic questions were included. Seventy-nine women who relinquished their infants to adoption during the years 1965 through 1972 responded to the survey. Three birthmothers participated in a post-survey discussion group for the purpose of providing greater depth to the analysis of the survey data. Major findings of the study were: (1) the relinquishment experience was a traumatic life event for 99% of the participants; (2) 97% of the respondents reported being misled or misinformed of the effects of relinquishment; and (3) 94% of the participants reported that they did not receive adequate counseling at the time of the relinquishment. The profound effects of the imposition of secrecy was a prominent theme in the post-survey discussion group. That 41% of the survey participants had received hysterectomies is a finding that merits further investigation. Implications for social action, clinical counseling, and future research were discussed. 

Judy Kelly, PhD
email address: judy.kelly.phd@live.com

Author Profile: Judy A. Kelly, PhD is a certified post-adoption counselor and reunited birthmother. She is currently retired from private practice. Dr. Kelly received a PhD in Psychology from Northcentral University, Prescott Valley, AZ, and an MA in Psychology and Counseling from Goddard College, Plainfield, VT. This document represents her research on the trauma of relinquishment and its long-term effects on birthmothers. It was completed and published in 1999 as part of the requirements for her Master's Thesis in Counseling Psychology at Goddard College ( www.goddard.edu  ).

Copyright© 2020 Judy Kelly.  All rights reserved.