Jul 5, 2009

Orphan: A movie to boycott

Warner Brothers is releasing a movie that is already evoking serious concern among adoption groups, mental health professionals, and others in the child welfare system. "Orphan" presents the story of an adopted child who is "damaged goods" and is violent and aggressive toward her adoptive family while appearing sweet and innocent to others. She is presented as a calculating, cunning child whose intention is to hurt her new family.

Children with complex trauma or disorders of attachment may be aggressive, violent, and difficult to live with. However their behavior is usually grounded in fear. Their early experiences may have "taught" them that relationships and intimacy are to be feared and avoided because these are inconsistent, painful, and not helpful.

This movie is a grounded in the myth that adopted children are emotionally disturbed because of "bad genes," and so there is not hope. Nothing could be further from the truth. See: "Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter" (Demick, K.( 2007) "Challenging the common myths about adoption". Vol. 23 (4), p. 8).

Complex trauma often results in impairment in several domains and must be treated with effective, evidence-based, and empirically validated treatments, such a Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy. How long the child has experienced maltreatment is a major factor in outcome. In addition, the adoptive parent's understanding of the early trauma and how that effects later behavior is also key to a good outcome. For older children "usual" or "automatic" parenting is usually not good enough and some form of therapeutic parenting is necessary (see Creating Capacity for Attachment edited by Arthur Becker-Weidman & Deborah Shell). The research is clear that the factors associated with "placement stability," include the caregiver's commitment, sensitivity, insightfulness, and state of mind with respect to attachment.

This film sends the wrong message. It is also based on incorrect data and information regarding the effects of early trauma on child development and what parents can do.

Boycott this film.


. said...

please see the UNICEF approved link >


Anonymous said...

I second your opinion on this matter. Personally I have a child that suffers from ADD, and this aspect of child development has left me puzzled on the options that I can take up. Sometimes I am just at my wit's end.

Arthur Becker-Weidman, PhD said...

ADD can be effectively treated. I'd suggest beginning with a thorough assessment by a licensed mental health professional