Postadoptive Reactions of the Relinquishing Mother: A Review


Address for correspondence: Holli Ann Askren, MSN, CNM, 24008 North 42nd Drive, Glendale, AZ 85310.


Obiective: To review the literature addressing the process of relinquishment as it relates to the birth mother.

Data Sources: Computerized, searches in CINAHL; Article 1st, PsycFIRST, and SocioAbs databases, using the keywords adoption and relinquishment; and ancestral bibliographies.

Study Selection: Articles from indexed iournals in the English language relevant to the keywords were evaluated. No studies were located before 1978. Studies that sampled only an adolescent population were excluded. Twelve studies met the inclusion criteria and were included in the analysis.

Data Extraction: Data were extracted and information was organized under the following headings: grief reaction, long-term effects, efforts to resolve, and influences on the relinquishment experience.

Data Synthesis: A grief reaction unique to the relinquishing mother was identified. Although this reaction consists of features characteristic of the normal grief reaction, these features persist and often lead to chronic, unresolved grief.

Conclusions: The relinquishing mother is at risk for long-term physical, psychologic, and social repercussions. Although interventions have been proposed, little is known about their effectiveness in preventing or alleviating these repercussions.