The importance attached to children in most societies has made imperative that every home/family desire to have children. Besides, companionship derived from marriage, children foster love and happiness among married couples. Thus, the joy and stability that children bring to families cannot be over emphasized. This may be why couples who are unable, because of one reason or the other to bear children go for adoption.
However, adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the role of parenting for another child and in so doing permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities, along with filiations, from the biological parents or parent (Pertman, 2000). According to Logan (1996) adoption is defined as act of transferring parental rights and duties to someone other than the adopted person’s biological parents. Adoption, according to Wikipedia (2013) is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting for another and, in so doing, permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities, along with filiations, from the biological parent or parents. Unlike, guardianship or other systems design for the care of the young, adoption is intended to effect a permanent change in status of the child and as such requires societal recognition, either through legal or religious sanction.
Nevertheless, adoption practice has been in existence in an informal form prior to colonial era. The system then could be contemporarily described as fosterage. This is a situation where children could be fostered out to kin members for variety of reasons. Such reasons could be because of infertility of the fostered parent(s). Meanwhile, contemporary adoption practices can be open or closed (Logan, 1996). Open adoption, allows identifying information to be communicated between adoptive and biological parents and, perhaps interaction between kin and the adopted child. While close adoption (i.e. confidential or secret adoption) seal all identifying information, maintaining it as secret and preventing disclosure of the adoptive parents, biological kins and adoptees (Logan, 1996).
Bloodhound Team (2004) defined adoption as the legal and emotional acceptance into a parent family of a child not born to the parents but have the parents name and the same legal rights as a child by birth. By this definition adopted child assumes the identity of the adoptive parents as prescribe by the law which permit inheritance right to be transferred to the adopted child. Adopted children contemporary are being seen as orphans who have no birth rights, homeless and hopeless or any representation of such in the society. Nydam (1992) corroborates the abandoned posture of adopted child by asserting that adoption is the first of all an experience of rejection of not fitting into this world, where a child is being dismissed, separated from origins and denied the basic rights of birth, and offered up to unasked adoptive parents. He asserted that adoption should be given a new status and a new place in the world of rejection.
However, in African culture a child is being considered as central to the sustenance and continual existence of happy home. In African continent adoption is seen as an arrangement by which a child whose biological parents are unable to care for is being adopted and given the same legal and social status as though he/she were the biological child of the adoptive families. For instance in some part of South Africa, the exchange of female relatives from one family to another, for marriage is meant to create enduring connections and social solidarity among families and lineages, e.g. among the Mbuti people in South Africa, sisters are being exchange for marriage. In that part of African, adoption is not seen as a means of filling the gap created in the home as a result of childlessness, but a process to solidified a close family relationship between two families (Anderson, 2012).
In Nigerian culture today, much is talked about adoption and adopted child and yet many are adopting and owing children because of health and social problems of infertility. Couples who are unable to bear children may experience a wide spectrum of some psychological feeling such as jealousness, despair, envy, isolation and bitterness (Schalesky, 2001). Others may feel singled out for Ordeal, few others seem to experience difficulties to fit into the social circles, where the society lay much emphasizes on having children (Daniluk, 1996). In Nigeria, socio-cultural and environmental factors do tremendously affect the process of adoption. Each ethnic group in Nigeria has a set of critical social orders of carrying out everyday activities and mode of living, which give rise to local attitude and practice in terms of child adoption. In Nigeria perspective, adoption simply means getting a child who is not your biological child and giving him/her all the right supposed for a biological child. Indeed, to adopt a child in Nigeria is not an easy task. A lot of protocols are involved before a child can be adopted. The adoptive parents will answer a lot of paper questions which include their financial status, religious status, their social life, and environment where they reside (Joyce 2013).
The attitude and behaviour in Nigeria towards adoption stems from most of the problems of life that are associated with most of the adopted children such like depression, delinquent behaviour, stealing from the adoptive parents, identity problem and difficulties with relationships. In 1965 the government of the then Eastern region legislated for adoption, to cushion the adverse effect of adoption on the adopted child (Adeimeji & Alawode, 2000). This served as an example for the other parts of the federation which embraced the idea in succession. Lagos legislated adoption law in (1981), Bendel state (1979), Cross River state (1981), Ogun state (1983) and Enugu state (1989) (Adedimeji & Alawode, 2000). These laws were enacted to protect the adopted child from harsh and uncaring parents, the laws spelt out who is eligible to adopt, who may be adopted, residence and nationality and legal implications. These adoption laws advocates for a good family home environment which is considered vital to the sound development of a child. This advocacy follows the united national convention in the right of the child (1990), and the African charter on the rights and welfare of the adopted child (1999) (institute for human rights and development in African, 2000). These laws and acts give the adopted child a maximum protection from undue exploitation by the adopter and empowered the social workers to monitor periodically the relationships that exist between the adopted child and adoptive parents.
Meanwhile, child adoption is a challenging social process in Nigeria and more so in Igbo land where the ‘bastard’ syndrome is rife. The Igbo people have their own peculiar forms of customary behaviours particular systems of social relationships and distinctive culture. The Igbo nation is a group of people that live in the south Eastern part of Nigeria. Child adoption has found its way into Igbo culture when the rate of infertility became so high among married couples, the only option becomes adoption as a means of having children (Anderson 2012).
In Igbo land, the primary function of marriage is for procreation, thus having children is a source of personal satisfaction and social status. Generally, in Igbo land a woman’s status is measured in terms of her ability to procreate. The number of children a woman has in Igbo land guarantee her respect and enhanced her status in the community (Okenwa, 2012). According to Handworker (1989), he asserts that child bearing was a singular important mechanism used by women to gain access to the resources on which their material welfare depend. Thus, in Igbo traditional society childless parents can go to any length to get a child. In Igbo land, adoption is a legal procedure that makes a child born by a woman to become the legal child of someone else (Okenwa 2012). Joyce (2013), noted that every couple do not have to remain perpetually deprived of the joys of parenting. Meanwhile, the significance of children in the traditional Igbo society is also portrayed in the general ideology that childless couples are incomplete or inadequate or misfit regardless of their social status. This is depicted in some names given to children in typical Igbo society. Such names are: “Nwamaka”, meaning children are blessing, “Nwakaego” meaning children are more important than wealth. “Nwabuife” meaning, children are light in the family (Joyce, 2013).
However, child adoption practices have been viewed as a societal solution to child abandonment and an alternative solution to some couples to make up for the sex of a child which they lack (Anderson, 2012). While, this is true in most of developed countries around the world, the case of adoption appeared differently in Igbo land especially in Enugu state and in Nsukka metropolis precisely, where childless couples may decide to stay childless than shopping to adopt a child from orphanage home. Igbo’s who are believed to place more importance on children in the family are not willing to show interest to adopt these children of orphanage homes, those that showed interest never want to go public in their ambition. Therefore, issues of adoption remained secret in Igbo cultural setting. That is the reason why attitude had come to play an important role in the issue of child adoption in Igbo land, specifically in Nsukka metropolis.
Attitude is the psychological response to a person, an object, to a situation, to society and to life itself that generally influence our behaviour and reaction. Goldstein (1982) defines attitude as a readiness of the psyche to act or react in a certain way. The people’s attitude towards adoption is what the study set out to examine. The researcher wants to understand the attitude of the adults in Nsukka metropolis towards child adoption. These attitudes of adults in Nsukka metropolis towards the issues of child adoption may have some psychological constructs that are responsible for it. The verbal reports, overt behaviour and some physiological indicator hold some psychological constructs responsible for the attitude some adults held towards child adoption. Such constructs are self-esteem, locus of control etc.
However, self-esteem has been conceptualized by social psychologist as the overall attitude people hold towards themselves which may be positive or negative. Robert (2012), opined that, the degree to which we perceive ourselves positively or negatively or overall attitude towards ourselves which can be measured explicitly or implicitly can be one self-esteem. Our self-esteem at times can be high or low depending on how we perceive ourselves, and what we feel that we are worth in the society. Most a times, people who feel that their respect is at stake in the society if they go into adoption, may shun such practice. Therefore, self-esteem may determine to a larger extent, the choice and will of childless couples to opt for adoption and also have a good parental attitude towards the adopted child.
Nevertheless, the concept of locus of control may play a significant role on the willingness to adopt a child by the childless couples. The locus of control of an individual, which is the belief that there is external or internal forces responsible for any human action. Individuals with internal locus of control believe that events in their life derive primarily from their own action, while individuals with external locus of control belief that events in their lives have connections with external forces (Carlson, 2007). Therefore, the issue of locus of control is a case of personality. However many adults may or may not be hindered by their personality factor not to bring the idea of child adoption, which the research set to find out.
Finally, child adoption practices balance on the individual make-ups of the male or female personality that wishes to have children through adoption. And mapped-up belief that most of the abandoned children that constitute the greater percent of adoptees are children without good background and parental home.
Statement of the Problem
The rate of child adoption in Nigeria today is almost nearing a pitch height. Adoption has taken another dimension given the fact that childless couples are desperate to raise children that will take after them and take care of them at old age. Society is worried about the welfare of these children adopted. In Igbo land specifically Nsukka in Enugu State, much is being talked about adoption and many people are adopting children because of health and social problems of infertility and other reasons. Children are adopted to fill the vacuum created in the family of childlessness. The challenge in Igbo Land is that the process of adoption has been shrouded in secrecy. Nickman (1985) asserted that the practice of adoption lead to the psychological problem that associated with separating mother and infant, an event labeled as “psychological amputation”.
The belief that lost of true identity of the adoptees make them look a little like second class citizens in the society, attracts stigmatization to the adoptees. And this may affect the attitude of adoptive adults who may wish to adopt them. Besides, the public may see the adoptive parents as couples who are dysfunctional, not capable to produce their own biological children and therefore they are misfit in the society. It is believed that some psychological constructs may influence the attitude of some adults towards child adoption. Thus, this study intends to answer the following questions:
- Will self-esteem of an individual adult influence his or her attitude towards child adoption?
- Will locus of control of an individual adult influence his or her attitude towards child adoption?
- Will gender influence an individual adults attitude towards child adoption?
Purpose of the Study
Research on people’s attitude towards adoption could be a guide in social policy and social work practices.
Therefore, this study is aimed at identifying the role played by psychological factors such as self esteem and locus of control as well as gender in influencing the attitude of the adult individual towards child adoption in Nsukka metropolis.
Operational Definition of Terms
- Self – Esteem: The degree to which we perceive ourselves positively or negatively as measured by the Rosenberg self – esteem scale 1965.
- Attitude Towards Child Adoption: People’s feelings and thoughts that influence their behaviour towards adoption as measured by attitude questionnaire designed by the researcher.
- Locus of Control: Psychological construct that holds the belief that one’s success or failure has a link with internal or external forces that compel behaviour as measured by Terry (2003).
- Child Adoption: An act of transferring parental rights and duties to someone other than the biological parents.