“Xenophobic parentis” are the negative feelings, dislikes and fears of children who are orphaned, fostered, and adopted that are directed against unfamiliar, mysterious and lesser known birth parents. They fear their birth parents may be persons of ill character, mental illness, debauchery, perversion, immorality, ethnically different, uniquely political or religious individuals, who will reflect poorly on their self-image. They fear strangers who may be killers, thieves, cheaters, wanderers, diseased, drug users and prostitutes. Their psychological ‘fight or flight’ response triggers them to nervously cling to the safety of their adoptive family surroundings and their privileged status as the ‘chosen one’.
Fear is related to the specific behaviors of escape and avoidance; a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus related to future events, or a situation that is unacceptable. Fear is an emotion induced by a perceived threat which causes entities to quickly pull far away from it and usually hide, or in extreme cases a freeze or paralysis response is possible. Fear can be a manipulating and controlling factor in an individual’s life whether it is a fear of people, being a failure, fear of public speaking, fear of heights, fear of animals, or fear of the unknown. Many adoptees are too scared to take the path they want to because of what may lie ahead. They have a persistent fear of a foreboding situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding because the fear of their birth parents causes apprehension, consternation and dismay.
It is normal for all parents to tell their children not to talk to strangers in order to protect them from potential harm. Whether the threat is factual or imagined, the feeling or condition of being afraid is bona fide. When describing birth parents they know almost nothing about, adoptees with acute ‘xenophobia parentis’ may develop vivid imaginations leading to creative visualizations, or even hallucinations worthy of a good novelist describing perverted, deranged mentally ill individuals plotting to harm others. Parental alienation exacerbates the situation when adoptive parents excessively harp on the negative qualities of the birth parents to instill fear in the adopted child, eventually manifested as a social phobia based on a fear of public scrutiny leading to embarrassment and humiliation. Exposure to the feared social situation without preparation invariably provokes anxiety, or even full-fledged panic attacks with all the associated disabling symptoms.
There has been an increasing number of adoptees expressing a desire to communicate with birth parents over the years. Jean Paton was a firm believer in open adoption records and her theories about the emotional need for a curative and breakthrough reality that would finally make sense out of the disrupted life stories of adoptees has had a significant effect on the adoption community. I credit her personal advice, counseling and mentoring as an essential step needed to overcome my ‘xenophobia parentis’ before initiating my epic quest to locate my birth parents.
Related term: Parental Alienation is a pathological alignment dynamic associated with divorce, separation and adoption.
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