Coercive adoption: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, in the light of 21st Century Research as seen in DSMV

You are here

In the ongoing support and counselling of those mothers who lost a child or children to adoption, PTSD is one of those elements of their suffering that may be amenable to improvement by available government provisions. The following refers generally to the Australian experience during the sixties and seventies when tens of thousands of babies were coercively taken for adoption in the middle decade of that period.

In May 2013 The American Psychiatric Association belatedly published the DSM V classification of psychiatric disorders. The section on PTSD is well set out and has taken into account the wide range of research that has developed in the 21st Century. While overall classification in DSMV has created much criticism and disagreement, such do not apply to this section. From our point of view it sets out in clear language many of the forms that mothers suffer and links these to the core themes of the disorder, and its value to us is to be highly respected.

The causative criteria not only are due to the mother’s own direct experience of a series of traumatic events, but there are deep seated preoccupations with the possible effects on their baby that continue indefinitely.

The more obvious causal instances are associated with the threat of serious injury while in the birth crisis; we also have some who were certain they faced death, and many who faced genital exposure and unexplained vaginal or anal procedures while unsupported, where sexual shame and anxiety became significant.

The purpose of this paper is to delineate the context, social milieu and particular circumstances that have sensitised these women to their traumas in order to assist those caring for them, as well as to alert assessors to matters they or the mother concerned may not realise are part of the post-traumatic syndrome.


Dr Geoff Rickarby Consultant Psychiatrist
November 2014