The adoptive father contributes to the development of his adopted child by supporting the adoptive mother as she cares for the child, by promoting attachments within the family, and by helping the child understand the circumstances of the adoption and his or her relationship with the biological parents. This chapter reviews cultural attitudes about the purpose of adoption and the father's role throughout history. The discussion contrasts ancient and cultural attitudes about adoption as a method for achieving status with contemporary perceptions of adoption as a response to the needs and wants of the child, the birth family, and the adoptive family. The emphasis on needs and wants has created a system in which adopted children are considered to be unwanted, birth mothers are treated as failures, and adoptive parents are perceived as in need of children. Fathers have a limited role in this vision of adoption because greater importance is placed on the adoptive mother's ability to nurture the child. However, research and experience with adoptive families has found that family relationships are essential to help children overcome feelings of grief and loss related to their adoption. Adoptive parents must maintain open communications with their children about their adoption throughout their development. Theories about linking and the function of the adoptive father highlight the role of the father in preventing the intrapsychic fragmentation that can occur as a child forms his identity while negotiating the meaning of his or her birth family and adoptive parents. Adoptive fathers serve as mediators in the relationship between the adopted child and the adoptive mother, promoting attachment while providing an objective perspective on family status. However, fathers must cope with narcissistic feelings of jealousy about the relationship between their wife and adopted children. Two case studies are presented to demonstrate the issues of concern in adopted children and the role of the father in development. 51 references.
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