It would be interesting to see study of nature vs. nurture opinions among adopted vs. non-adopted children and identical vs. fraternal twins. I'd be interested in views of Chicago Cubs moneyball genius GM Theo Epstein, whose fraternal twin is a guidance counselor.
Of course I believe in the importance of nature a bit more strongly than the average person. But our lives are still the sums of many different factors, some genetic, some nurture, some random. We also have something that feels like free will, crazy as that may sound; we are not doomed to eternally repeat the sins of our parents just because we saw them do something bad when we were three, nor are we condemned to robotically enact whatever flaws are encoded in our DNA. We are complicated.
In the first phase, I was numb: no shock, anger, disappointment—just bewilderment. It was sohard to grasp. Unimaginable. It was hard to think clearly. And yet, a tiny bit of relief. Maybe truth would yield clarity and understanding of my father’s actions. This secondary sensation was the beginning of a wholly unexpected change in my internal being.
The second phase—feeling unmoored—was by far the hardest. Who am I? From where do I come? And who is this unknown man living in my body, coursing through my veins? I would subconsciously shake my hands trying to get him out of me. And worst, with my mother and the father who raised me both deceased, would I ever find the truth, get to the answers I was seeking? When you think you understand your origins, there is no obsessive need to explore and connect; you are satisfied knowing there is an origin and your ancestors and family members can be searched and contacted whenever needed. But when that assumption is taken away, you truly are an alien.
I should note that unlike Professor Schreiber, I had very decent parents; I have nothing to be ungrateful for beyond the normal vagaries of family life.
But the sense of being alien is still there; I always feel myself floating between worlds. There’s the world I was raised in, which I know culturally and can imitate quite effortlessly, (aside from a certain striver efficiency that seems more innate); then the world I talk to on the telephone, where people make the same sort of stupid mistakes as I do, but the cultural context is missing.
The advent of the internet is easing this gab, by the way, as the younger folks in my generation and I share more online culture.
Cultural things can get a good laugh out of you–you and someone else liked the same show, or went to the same park, or enjoyed the same brand of hot dogs–while innate things can strike very deep. Finding out that your brother got in trouble for the same distinct habits that you got in trouble for, or that you see in your own children, is really something. You look at this person and realize that despite this cultural and experiential gulf between you, you understand them–and they understand you.
The fellow in the article ended up with a bunch of new relatives, which he found very rewarding. For most adoptees, contacting biological family is iffy. People who gave you up when you were an infant may not want you in their lives, may not be good people, or may just be dead. But extended family never gave you up; extended family tends not to have all of that awkward parental baggage, either. They’re just potential siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., you’ve never met, and meeting them can be quite interesting.
I find that people really focus on adoptees’ parents, so I would just like to reiterate that biological families are more than just parents. They are cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, etc. They are entire families. Even people whose biological parents have given them good reason to never contact them (or are dead) may want to contact the rest of their biological families.
And like the good professor, I’ve found that meeting family from very different walks of life than my own has exposed me to very different perspectives. It is interesting seeing how similar people cope with very different situations–the things that stay the same (eg, dorkiness); the things that differ (attitudes toward guns).
Like they say, it’s about half nurture, half nature, half random chance, and half what you make of it.
(Just to be clear, yes, I know that’s not how halves work.)
Welcome back to Anthropology Friday. Today we’ll be continuing with Sidney L. Gulick’s Evolution of the Japanese, Social and Psychic, published in 1903. Gulick was a Puritan missionary who moved to Japan shortly after the “opening of Japan” and Meiji Restoration. He wrote at a time when very Japanese society was changing at break-neck speed and very few accounts of Japan existed at all in the West.
Gulick’s account may not be accurate in every respect–perhaps no native can ever be accurate in every respect–but his affection for his adopted society and desire to explain it to his fellow Westerners is clear.
“If a clue to the character of a nation is gained by a study of the nature of the gods it worships, no less valuable an insight is gained by a study of its heroes. … Japan is a nation of hero-worshipers. This is no exaggeration. Not only is the primitive religion, Shintoism, systematic hero-worship, but every hero known to history is deified, and has a shrine or temple. These heroes, too, are all men of conspicuous valor or strength, famed for mighty deeds of daring. They are men of passion. The most popular story in Japanese literature is that of “The Forty-seven Ronin,” who avenged the death of their liege-lord after years of waiting and plotting. This revenge administered, they committed harakiri in accordance with the etiquette of the ethical code of feudal Japan. Their tombs are to this day among the most frequented shrines in the capital of the land, and one of the most popular dramas presented in the theaters is based on this same heroic tragedy.
“The prominence of the emotional element may be seen in the popular description of national heroes. The picture of an ideal Japanese hero is to our eyes a caricature. His face is distorted by a fierce frenzy of passion, his eyeballs glaring, his hair flying, and his hands hold with a mighty grip the two-handed sword wherewith he is hewing to pieces an enemy. I am often amazed at the difference between the pictures of Japanese heroes and the living Japanese I see. This difference is manifestly due to the idealizing process; for they love to see their heroes in their passionate moods and tenses.
“The craving for heroes, even on the part of those who are familiar with Western thought and customs, is a feature of great interest. Well do I remember the enthusiasm with which educated, Christian young men awaited the coming to Japan of an eminent American scholar, from whose lectures impossible things were expected. So long as he was in America and only his books were known, he was a hero. But when he appeared in person, carrying himself like any courteous gentleman, he lost his exalted position.
“Townsend Harris showed his insight into Oriental thought never more clearly than by maintaining his dignity according to Japanese standards and methods. On his first entry into Tokyo he states, in his journal, that although he would have preferred to ride on horseback, in order that he might see the city and the people, yet as the highest dignitaries never did so, but always rode in entirely closed “norimono” (a species of sedan chair carried by twenty or thirty bearers), he too would do the same; to have ridden into the limits of the city on horseback would have been construed by the Japanese as an admission that he held a far lower official rank than that of a plenipotentiary of a great nation. …
“there is nevertheless a class whose ideal heroes are not military, but moral. Their power arises not through self-assertion, but rather through humility; their influence is due entirely to learning coupled with insight into the great moral issues of life.”
“An aspect of Japanese life widely remarked and praised by foreign writers is the love for children. Children’s holidays, as the third day of the third moon and the fifth day of the fifth moon, are general celebrations for boys and girls respectively, and are observed with much gayety all over the land. At these times the universal aim is to please the children; the girls have dolls and the exhibition of ancestral dolls; while the boys have toy paraphernalia of all the ancient and modern forms of warfare, and enormous wind-inflated paper fish, symbols of prosperity and success, fly from tall bamboos in the front yard. Contrary to the prevailing opinion among foreigners, these festivals have nothing whatever to do with birthday celebrations. In addition to special festivals, the children figure conspicuously in all holidays and merry-makings. To the famous flower-festival celebrations, families go in groups and make an all-day picnic of the joyous occasion.
“The Japanese fondness for children is seen not only at festival times. Parents seem always ready to provide their children with toys. As a consequence toy stores flourish. There is hardly a street without its store.”
EvX: Even though the Japanese have one of the world’s lowest birth rates, which would seem to make life difficult for toy stores, I still have the impression that the nation produces a great many high-quality, nice toys. Everything from Nintendo, for example. But back to Gulick, on the treatment of children more generally:
“A still further reason for the impression that the Japanese are especially fond of their children is the slight amount of punishment and reprimand which they administer. The children seem to have nearly everything their own way. Playing on the streets, they are always in evidence and are given the right of way. …
“A fair statement of the case, therefore, is somewhat as follows: The lower and laboring classes of Japan seem to have more visible affection for their children than the same classes in the Occident. Among the middle and upper classes, however, the balance is in favor of the West. In the East, while, without doubt, there always has been and is now a pure and natural affection, it is also true that this natural affection has been more mixed with utilitarian considerations than in the West. Christian Japanese, however, differ little from Christian Americans in this respect. The differences between the East and the West are largely due to the differing industrial and family conditions induced by the social order.”
EvX: Remember that Gulick is a missionary, and so apt to think that being Christian or not is a big deal. Interestingly, he sees “being Christian” as more than just a minimalist “believes Christ is God made man and died for your sins,” but also as a suite of cultural norms like “monogamy” and “universalism.” Of course, who chooses to become Christian is not random, but it’d be quite interesting to know whether belief in Christianity in a place like Japan actually does carry with it increased adoption of other social norms. But back to Gulick:
“The correctness of this general statement will perhaps be better appreciated if we consider in detail some of the facts of Japanese family life. Let us notice first the very loose ties, as they seem to us, holding the Japanese family together. It is one of the constant wonders to us Westerners how families can break up into fragments, as they constantly do. One third of the marriages end in divorce; and in case of divorce, the children all stay with the father’s family. It would seem as if the love of the mother for her children could not be very strong where divorce under such a condition is so common. Or, perhaps, it would be truer to say that divorce would be far more frequent than it is but for the mother’s love for her children. For I am assured that many a mother endures most distressing conditions rather than leave her children.
“Furthermore, the way in which parents allow their children to leave the home and then fail to write or communicate with them, for months or even years at a time, is incomprehensible if the parental love were really strong. And still further, the way in which concubines are brought into the home, causing confusion and discord, is a very striking evidence of the lack of a deep love on the part of the father for the mother of his children and even for his own legitimate children. One would expect a father who really loved his children to desire and plan for their legitimacy; but the children by his concubines are not “ipso facto” recognized as legal.
“One more evidence in this direction is the frequency of adoption and of separation. Adoption in Japan is largely, though by no means exclusively, the adoption of an adult; the cases where achild is adopted by a childless couple from love of children are rare, as compared with similar cases in the United States, so far, at least, as my observation goes.”
EvX: Adoption of non-kin is a very European/American phenomenon, almost unknown everywhere else in the world. Ever wonder why Americans adopted so many Korean babies? It’s because other Koreans didn’t want them.
Back to Gulick:
“Infanticide throws a rather lurid light on Japanese affection. First, in regard to the facts: Mr. Ishii’s attention was called to the need of an orphan asylum by hearing how a child, both of whose parents had died of cholera, was on the point of being buried alive with its dead mother by heartless neighbors when it was rescued by a fisherman. …
“In speaking of infanticide in Japan, let us not forget that every race and nation has been guilty of the same crime, and has continued to be guilty of it until delivered by Christianity.
“Widespread infanticide proves a wide lack of natural affection. Poverty is, of course, the common plea. Yet infanticide has been practiced not so much by the desperately poor as by small land-holders. The amount of farming land possessed by each family was strictly limited and could feed only a given number of mouths. Should the family exceed that number, all would be involved in poverty, for the members beyond that limit did not have the liberty to travel in search of new occupation. Infanticide, therefore, bore direct relation to the rigid economic nature of the old social order.”
Husbands and wives:
“Shortly after my first arrival in Japan, I was walking home from church one day with an English-speaking Japanese, who had had a good deal to do with foreigners. Suddenly, without any introduction, he remarked that he did not comprehend how the men of the West could endure such tyranny as was exercised over them by their wives. I, of course, asked what he meant. He then said that he had seen me buttoning my wife’s shoes.
“I should explain that on calling on the Japanese, in their homes, it is necessary that we leave our shoes at the door, as the Japanese invariably do; this is, of course, awkward for foreigners who wear shoes; especially so is the necessity of putting them on again. The difficulty is materially increased by the invariably high step at the front door. It is hard enough for a man to kneel down on the step and reach for his shoes and then put them on; much more so is it for a woman. And after the shoes are on, there is no suitable place on which to rest the foot for buttoning and tying. I used, therefore, very gladly to help my wife with hers.
“Yet, so contrary to Japanese precedent was this act of mine that this well-educated gentleman and Christian, who had had much intercourse with foreigners, could not see in it anything except the imperious command of the wife and the slavish obedience of the husband. His conception of the relation between the Occidental husband and wife is best described as tyranny on the part of the wife.”
EvX: I include this excerpt because, as an amusing misunderstanding, it warns against overconfidence in interpreting the actions of folks from another culture that may have perfectly mundane explanations, and because it casts light on the speaker’s own assumptions.
“Another evangelist, with whom I had much to do, was the adopted son of a scheming old man; it seems that in the earlier part of the present era the eldest son of a family was exempt from military draft. It often happened, therefore, that families who had no sons could obtain large sums of money from those who had younger sons whom they wished to have adopted for the purpose of escaping the draft. This evangelist, while still a boy, was adopted into such a family, and a certain sum was fixed upon to be paid at some time in the future. But the adopted son proved so pleasing to the adopting father that he did not ask for the money; by some piece of legerdemain, however, he succeeded in adopting a second son, who paid him the desired money. After some years the first adopted son became a Christian, and then an evangelist, both steps being taken against the wishes of the adopting father. The father finally said that he would forego all relations to the son, and give him back his original name, provided the son would pay the original sum that had been agreed on, plus the interest, which altogether would, at that time, amount to several hundred yen. This was, of course, impossible.
“The negotiations dragged on for three or four years. Meanwhile, the young man fell in love with a young girl, whom he finally married; as he was still the son of his adopting father, he could not have his wife registered as his wife, for the old man had another girl in view for him and would not consent to this arrangement. And so the matter dragged for several months more. Unless the matter could be arranged, any children born to them must be registered as illegitimate. At this point I was consulted and, for the first time, learned the details of the case. Further consultations resulted in an agreement as to the sum to be paid; the adopted son was released, and re-registered under his newly acquired name and for the first time his marriage became legal. The confusion and suffering brought into the family by this practice of adoption and of separation are almost endless. …
“In the first place, the affectionate relation existing between husbands and wives and between parents and children, in Western lands, is a product of relatively recent times. In his exhaustive work on “The History of Human Marriage,” Westermarck makes this very plain. Wherever the woman is counted a slave, is bought and sold, is considered as merely a means of bearing children to the family, or in any essential way is looked down upon, there high forms of affection are by the nature of the case impossible, though some affection doubtless exists; it necessarily attains only a rudimentary development. …
“We must remember, in the second place, what careful students of human evolution have pointed out, that those tribes and races in which the family was most completely consolidated, that is to say, those in which the power of the father was absolute, were the ones to gain the victory over their competitors. The reason for this is too obvious to require even a statement. Every conquering race has accordingly developed the “patria potestas” to a greater or less degree. Now one general peculiarity of the Orient is that that stage of development has remained to this day; it has not experienced those modifications and restrictions which have arisen in the West. The national government dealt with families and clans, not with individuals, as the final social unit. In the West, however, the individual has become the civil unit; the “patria potestas” has thus been all but lost. “
Way back in 1870, 11 yr old Herman Lehmann and his little brother were trying to scare the crows away from their family’s wheat when they were kidnapped by a band of Apaches.
A patrol of African-American cavalry men managed to rescue the little brother four days later, but not Herman. The Apaches took him from Texas to New Mexico and told him that they had killed his entire family, so there was no point to trying to escape.
Then, instead of killing him, scalping him, or holding him for ransom, an Apache man named Carnoviste and his wife, Laughing Eyes, adopted him.
It was common practice throughout the Americas to capture and adopt people from enemy tribes (particularly children, teenagers, and women). In a few tribes this was a traumatic kidnapping, sometimes involving a violent hazing ritual prior to adoption. In other tribes it was a mere formality, with eligible young women going out to a rendezvous point at night to be “carried off” by a neighboring tribe so they could find husbands there. In most tribes, intertribal kidnapping fell somewhere in between those two extremes–a well-established convention of war that simultaneously encouraged exogamy (new blood in the tribe) and ensured the safety of women and children on both sides. Most Indians tried to avoid being captured, but few captives tried to escape and there were few rescue attempts by their kinsmen, who could reasonably expect them to be well-treated and well-cared for. Mistreating someone once he or she had been adopted into a tribe was considered evil (many Indian legends and folktales revolve around some villain who abuses an adoptee and is punished for this misdeed). Adoptees usually also had full social mobility, and often wound up in leadership positions or married to an important person in their new tribe.
Ah, bridenapping! That’ll have to be saved for another day.
The practice of captive-taking among North American Indians goes back to prehistoric times. Centuries before white men came to these shores, captives were taken from neighboring tribes to replenish losses suffered in warfare or to obtain victims to torture in the spirit of revenge. When warfare developed between Europeans and Indians, white captives were taken for the same reasons and, in addition, to hold for ransom or to use to gain bargaining power with an allied European government or colony. …
Children who arrived safely at the Indian village, however, usually were adopted as replacements for deceased relatives and thereafter treated as true sons or daughters. Many of these youngsters enjoyed the wild, free life of the Indians and became so completely assimilated that they resisted attempts to redeem them. Some youths became fierce warriors who raided the settlements. Among the most formidable “white Indians” were Clinton and Jeff Smith, Herman Lehmann, Adolph Korn, Rudolph Fischer, and Kiowa Dutch. … Millie Durgan lived happily to old age as the wife of a Kiowa warrior.
While I normally advocate more peaceful means of obtaining wives or children, I suppose this does, indeed, constitute a distinct genetic (and memetic) strategy that might even work. (Though technically, I doubt anyone could prove whether or not kidnapping happened in prehistoric times.)
The party that took us consisted of six Indians and four Frenchmen, who immediately commenced plundering … On our march that day, an Indian went behind us with a whip, with which he frequently lashed the children, to make them keep up. In this manner we traveled till dark, without a mouthful of food or a drop of water, although we had not eaten since the night before. Whenever the little children cried for water, the Indians would make them drink urine, or go thirsty. …
My suspicion as to the fate of my parents proved too true; for soon after I left them they were killed and scalped, together with Robert, Matthew, Betsey, and the woman and her two children, and mangled in the most shocking manner.
They first undressed me and threw my rags into the river; then washed me clean and dressed me in the new suit they had just brought, in complete Indian style; and then led me home and seated me in the center of their wigwam.
I had been in that situation hut a few minutes, before all the squaws in the town came in to see me. I was soon surrounded by them, and they immediately set up a most dismal howling, crying bitterly, and wringing their hands in all the agonies of grief for a deceased relative. … In the course of that ceremony, from mourning they became serene—joy sparkled in their countenances, and they seemed to rejoice over me as over a long-lost child. I was made welcome amongst them as a sister to the two squaws before mentioned, …
I afterwards learned that the ceremony I at that time passed through, was that of adoption. The two squaws had lost a brother in Washington’s war, sometime in the year before, and in consequence of his death went up to Fort Pitt, on the day on which I arrived there, in order to receive a prisoner or an enemy’s scalp, to supply their loss. It is a custom of the Indians, when one of their number is slain or taken prisoner in battle, to give to the nearest relative to the dead or absent, a prisoner, if they have chanced to take one, and if not, to give him the scalp of an enemy. … If they receive a prisoner, it is at their option either to satiate their vengeance by taking his life in the most cruel manner they can conceive of; or, to receive and adopt him into the family, in the place of him whom they have lost.
Herman spent 6 years with the Apache, becoming thoroughly assimilated and rising to the rank of petty chief, and began fighting on the Apaches’ side against the settlers:
As a young warrior, one of his most memorable battles was a running fight with the Texas Rangers on August 24, 1875, which took place near Fort Concho, about 65 miles west of the site of San Angelo, Texas. Ranger James Gillett nearly shot Lehmann before he realized he was a white “captive”. When the Rangers tried to find Lehmann later, he escaped by crawling through the grass.
After an Apache medicine man killed his adopted father, and Herman killed the medicine man, he left the Apaches and joined the Comanches. He proved himself a loyal warrior:
In the spring of 1877, Lehmann and the Comanches attacked buffalo hunters on the high plains of Texas. Lehmann was wounded by hunters in a surprise attack on the Indian camp at Yellow House Canyon (present-day Lubbock, Texas) on March 18, 1877, the last major fight between Indians and non-Indians in Texas.
In July 1877, Comanche chief Quanah Parker, who had successfully negotiated the surrender of the last fighting Comanches in 1875, was sent in search of the renegades. Herman Lehmann was among the group that Quanah found camped on the Pecos River in eastern New Mexico. Quanah persuaded them to quit fighting and come to the Indian reservation near Fort Sill, Indian Territory in (present-day Oklahoma).
Quanah Parker then adopted him, even though he was basically an adult. But once on the reservation, the army noticed that Herman didn’t exactly look like all of the other Indians, figured out who he was, and sent him back to his mother. Their reunion was awkward:
Upon his arrival, neither he nor his mother recognized one another. … At first, he was sullen and wanted nothing to do with his mother and siblings. As he put it, “I was an Indian, and I did not like them because they were palefaces.” Lehmann’s readjustment to his original culture was slow and painful.
This would not be remarkable had Herman been adopted as an infant or small child, instead of 11 years old. At this point, he had only lived with the Indians for 7 or 8 years–I would expect him to remember (and be somewhat fond of) his childhood family. On top of that, he transferred his allegiance entirely to the folks who told him they had just murdered his family.
Perhaps his parents were assholes. (Technically, his mom and step-father, because his father had died earlier and his mom had remarried. Step-parents are not always known for being pleasant.)
Or maybe the Apaches’ and Comanches’ lifestyle just really appealed to Herman.
For that matter, I suspect almost every little boy–and many girls–between about 1900 and 1970 fantasized about running off with and joining an Indian tribe. I know I did–small child me longed, almost painfully, to be an Indian. (Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that modern Indians don’t really do the whole traditional lifestyle thing anymore than modern whites live like the Amish.)
The Indians, yes, had been conquered, but there was still a sense in which they were regarded as noble enemies, a respect for the fierceness with which they defended their traditions. This respect was not extended to other enemies–say, the Nazis–who were cast as unmitigated evil. When we played Indians, we wanted to be the Indians; when we played WWII, the Nazis were invisible opponents “out there.” They were not us; we were not them. Even the adults thought it healthy for us to go to summer camps and canoe and fish and learn “Indian ways;” never were we taught to be pretend Imperial Japanese, Red Coats, or German POWs.
Granted, I would not be alive were it not for modern medicine, but I still understand the romanticized appeal of traditional Indian lifestyles: they sound fun.
Since the 80s, Indians have dropped precipitously from the public eye. (This trend has not necessarily in other countries, so you get weird things like the Japanese creators of the game Bravely Second replacing an Indian outfit with a cowboy one for the game’s American version.) Perhaps the Indians prefer it this way–there is a certain conflict that may naturally arise when my mythic past is also your mythic past, only it involves some of my ancestors conquering some of your ancestors, and you might not be all that keen on the idea of constantly celebrating that–but it seems sad to see all the pictures of them just disappear.
But I have noticed, concurrently, a drop in pretty much all forms of celebrating the American mythic past. Gone are the cowboys and pioneers, the Revolutionary heroes and brave Pilgrims.
Children’s media is dominated by European princesses and superheroes, not the mythic characters of our own past, like Paul Bunyan, John Henry, Johnny Appleseed, Davy Crockett, or Pecos Bill. And if you hear that story about George Washington and the cheery tree, (how quaint! We used to tell our children stories emphasizing the honesty of our national heroes!) it is recounted simply so the teller can denounce it as a myth.
Yes, biographies of Washington, Lincoln, and MLK still exist–lots of them. But let’s be honest: these biographies are boring and kids only read them because their teachers force them to.
Even the “American Girls” line of historic dolls and books has dropped their Revolutionary War, Pioneer, and WWII dolls–and the name “American Girls,” replacing it with “Be Forever,” which doesn’t even make sense.
Look at them! 5/8ths of the current lineup come from the 1900s, and the only notable historical period represented is the Civil War doll (Addy, second from the bottom left), and the other two pre-1900s dolls did not actually live in the US. (They lived in territories that later became part of the US.)
These days, our upper class prides itself on its knowledge of European history and languages (why eat Southern food when you can have French cuisine?) rather than American history and regional cultures. Internationalism, not nationalism, is the name of the game.
We have become allergic to our own past.
Anyway, getting back to our narrative… In 1900, Herman moved back to Oklahoma to be with the Apaches and Comanches. After a case that apparently required Congress’s approval, the government awarded 160 acres of land based on his adoption by Quanah Parker, effectively recognizing his status as a trans-racial Indian.
But wait–what kind of name is Quanah Parker?
It turns out that Quanah Parker, Comanche Indian chief, was himself the son of Cynthia Ann Parker, an English-American girl kidnapped and adopted by the Comanches.
Cynthia was somewhere between the ages of 8 and 11 when the Comanches massacred her family and carried her off. Wikipedia gives the following account:
“On May 19, 1836, a force of anywhere from 100 to 600 Indian warriorscomposed of Comanches accompanied by Kiowa and Kichai allies, attacked the community. John Parker and his men … were caught in the open and unprepared for the ferocity and speed of the Indian warriors in the attack which followed. … The Indians attacked the fort and quickly overpowered the outnumbered defenders. They took John, Cynthia, and some others alive. Cynthia watched as the other women were raped and the men tortured and killed. The last victim was John. He was castrated, and his genitals were stuffed into his mouth; he was scalped and at last killed.”
Let me rephrase my previous statement: the Indian lifestyles sound like fun when you are a small child and you aren’t reading about people getting their genitals stuffed into their mouths.
Despite this perhaps inauspicious start to her life among the Comanches, she was soon adopted by a new set of parents, raised in the tribe, and married a chieftain, Peta Nocona, with whom she had 3 children.
24 years later, Cynthia was re-captured by the Texas Rangers (not the baseball team) and returned to what remained of her family.
… the Texans never gave up on finding every last one of the children and women captured during the Great Comanche raid and subsequent ones in the following years. Although hundreds were either ransomed or eventually rescued in Texas Ranger and Scout expeditions, many others remained in the hands of the Comanche. In reprisal, the Texans launched a series of retaliatory attacks on Comanche settlements, finally forcing the war-chiefs to sue for peace. (Wikipedia, Peta Nocona)
Cynthia’s return to her birth family captured the country’s imagination. Tens of thousands of Texan families, and many more throughout the U.S., had suffered the loss of family members, especially children, in Indian raids. She was the granddaughter of a famous American patriot, a Marylander who had met a violent end in far-off Texas. This gained her special attention and gave hope to those who had lost relatives to the Comanche. In 1861, the Texas legislature granted her a league (about 4,400 acres) of land and an annual pension of $100 for the next five years, and made her cousins, Isaac Duke Parker and Benjamin F. Parker, her legal guardians. (Wikipedia, Cynthia Ann Parker)
Unfortunately, Cynthia never recovered from the loss of her husband, adopted family, and two eldest children. She tried several times to return to the Comanches, but was forcefully returned to her white relatives. After Topsanah died of the flu, she stopped eating and refused to go on living.
The Wikipedia claims that her son, Quanah Parker, was one of the last Comanche chiefs, but obviously the Comanche Nation still exists and still has leaders; the head guy is just called a “chairman” these days. (Which, I admit, is not as awesome a title as “chief.”)
Apparently Quanah didn’t realize his mother was white until after she was re-captured by the Texas Rangers. You’d think he’d have noticed her funny eye color or she would have mentioned her pre-Comanche childhood, but I guess Cynthia had just become very adept at the Comanche lifestyle.
Half-white, half-Indian Quanah did very well for himself, despite (or perhaps because of) the Comanches losing against the US government and being moved to a reservation in Oklahoma. He spent time with his mother’s family, learning English, farming, and about white culture, all of which probably helped him deal with the US gov’t, which appointed him chief of all the Comanches. He became one of (if not the) richest Indian of his day by leasing his land out to cattle ranchers, went hunting with President Teddy Roosevelt, had a 2-story, 7-room house, married 8 women (at the same time,) and had 25 children (some adopted, obviously.) He also became an important early leader in the Native American Church movement.
Perhaps Quanah adopted Herman because he felt some commonality in their cross-cultural experiences.
It would be unwise to over-generalize, however, from two examples. Most captives taken by the Indians did not get adopted, but were killed; many were enslaved or otherwise cruelly treated. Young women of teenage or childbearing age seem to have fared particularly badly, hence the major efforts undertaken to rescue them.
When the Comanches and Kiowas were driven onto reservations north of the Red River and compelled to release their prisoners, many captives had become so completely assimilated that they chose to remain with their captors. Most of these had married Indians, and it is estimated that 30 percent of Apaches, Comanches, and Kiowas had captive blood in their veins.
I don’t know if the adoption strategy worked, but it was certainly a genetic (and memetic) strategy.
The nobility of ancient Rome came up with a creative solution to the difficulties of making sure everyone had a male heir (who made it to adulthood) without ending up with a bunch of excess heirs who would inconveniently divide up the inheritance: adoption–or to be clear, noble fosterage. A family with two males would send its extra to a noble family that had none, (perhaps in exchange for a wife for the other son.) This ensured that every family had an heir and cemented ties between the families.
The Roman emperors also made a habit of adopting their chosen successors–other adults. Julius Caesar, for example, adopted his great-nephew Augustus, who succeeded him as emperor. (Well, after that business with the triumvirate and the civil war and all.) Technically, you could be adopted in ancient Rome by someone younger than yourself, though this did not happen very often.
Wikipedia gives some technical details:
In Roman law, the power to give children in adoption was one of the recognised powers of the paterfamilias. The adopted boy would usually be the oldest, the one with proven health and abilities. Adoption was an expensive agreement for the childless family and quality had to be ensured. Adoption was agreed between families by the mother giving the boy they wanted to adopt (for the most part) equal status, often political allies and/or with blood connections. A plebeian adopted by a patrician would become a patrician, and vice versa; however, at least in Republican times, this required the consent of the Senate (famously in the case of Publius Clodius Pulcher).
A sum of money was exchanged between the parties and the boy assumed the adoptive father’s name and a cognomen that indicated his original family (see Roman naming convention). Adoption was neither secretive nor considered to be shameful; the adopted boy was not even expected to cut ties to his original family. Like a marriage contract, adoption was a way to reinforce interfamily ties and political alliances. The adopted child was often in a privileged situation, enjoying both original and adoptive family connections. Almost every politically famous Roman family used it.
As we discussed yesterday, a different system of fosterage existed in Scotland and Ireland:
There still remains in the Islands, though it is passing fast away, the custom of fosterage. A Laird, a man of wealth and eminence, sends his child, either male or female, to a tacksman, or tenant, to be fostered. It is not always his own tenant, but some distant friend that obtains this honour; for an honour such a trust is very reasonably thought. …
Children continue with the fosterer perhaps six years, and cannot, where this is the practice, be considered as burdensome. The fosterer, if he gives four cows, receives likewise four, and has, while the child continues with him, grass for eight without rent, with half the calves, and all the milk, for which he pays only four cows when he dismisses his Dalt, for that is the name for a foster child.
Fosterage is, I believe, sometimes performed upon more liberal terms. Our friend, the young Laird of Col, was fostered by Macsweyn of Grissipol. Macsweyn then lived a tenant to Sir James Macdonald in the Isle of Sky; and therefore Col, whether he sent him cattle or not, could grant him no land. The Dalt, however, at his return, brought back a considerable number of Macalive cattle, and of the friendship so formed there have been good effects. When Macdonald raised his rents, Macsweyn was, like other tenants, discontented, and, resigning his farm, removed from Sky to Col, and was established at Grissipol.
The fostered Gael who comes immediately to mind is Cuchulainn. I was going to quote from the Tain Bo Cualnge, (pronounced “cooley;” Irish spelling is weird if you’re not used to it,) but the language in the translation is archaic so I’m gong to summarize.
Once upon a time, when Cuchulainn (who was semi-divine but being raised by his human mother,) was five years old, he decided he wanted to go play with some other boys he’d heard of who were under the care of his uncle. His mother told him he was too little to go, but he decided to go anyway.
When Cuchulainn arrived, he didn’t know that he was supposed to ask for permission (protection) before joining the other boys, so they all ran up and stated beating him up.
Five year old Chuchulainn responded in a way that must have scared the crap out of the bigge kids:
Thereupon contortions took hold of him. Thou wouldst have weened it was a hammering wherewith each hair was hammered into his head, with such an uprising it rose. Thou wouldst have weened it was a spark of fire that was on every single hair there. He closed one of his eyes so that it was no wider than the eye of a needle. He opened the other wide so that it was as big as the mouth of a mead-cup. He stretched his mouth from his jaw-bones to his ears; he opened his mouth wide to his jaw so that his gullet was seen. The champion’s light rose up from his crown.
Eventually the adults step in and stop Cuchulainn from beating up all the other kids, and inform him that he has to get their “protection” before entering the play field to prevent them from beating him up. Cuchulainn asks for protection and gets it, and the kids start playing with each other–at which point he starts beating them up again, because they don’t have protection from him. The adults intervene again and all of the kids ask for protection from this five year old.
The grown ups, of course, are impressed:
“A youngster did that deed,” Fergus continued, “at the dose of five years after his birth, when he overthrew the sons of champions and warriors at the very door of their liss and dûn. No need is there of wonder or surprise, if he should do great deeds, if he should come to the confines of the land, if he should cut off the four-pronged fork, if he should slay one man or two men or three men or four men, when there are seventeen full years of him now on the Cattle-lifting of Cualnge.”
“In sooth, then, we know that youth,” spoke out Conall Cernach (‘the Victorious’), “and it is all the better we should know him, for he is a fosterling of our own.”
The English have their own version of this fostering tradition, called boarding school. Quidditch may be less violent than hurley, but I don’t know about rugby.
As I have noted before, leaving children with their kin, temporarily or for extended periods, is quite normal in many societies. There’s a definite logic to this–older grandparents can look after little ones while young, strong parents work in the fields or travel to distant villages in search of better jobs. When the parents become grandparents, then it becomes their turn to look after the children.
Mainstream US culture, by contrast, emphasizes the primacy of the nuclear family, with the relationship between two parents and their children given prime importance. The “ideal” is typically given as two parents, one of whom (usually the mom) stays home full-time with the child/ren. If both parents must work, then in place of relatives, we have daycare workers and babysitters, with whom the child is not supposed to form a long-term bond. (I suspect this contradicts the child’s natural instinct to bond with caretakers.)
Without a nuclear family, we tend to assume that children will grow up, in some manner, defective.
Our particular form of adoption is born out of this belief in the importance of the nuclear family + our belief in blank slate-ist theories of identity and personality, which thus allow for the incorporation of total strangers into our family structures.
We also tend to assume that any mother who gives up her children will be deeply saddened by the broken bond–but cross-cultural and historical analysis suggests this is not necessarily true. Infanticide and child abandonment were far more common, historically, than we like to admit. But giving one’s children to a sibling or cousin to raise, in a situation where you could visit them often and no one assumed that full parental rights were being terminated, probably did not entail the kind of emotions as giving a child to a total stranger.
Tomorrow: The Curious Case of the Trans-racial Indians
Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: … And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive. …
And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink. And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him.
And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river’s side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it. And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children.
Then said his sister to Pharaoh’s daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?
And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child’s mother. And Pharaoh’s daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the women took the child, and nursed it.
And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water. (Exodus 1-2)
Here I feel compelled to stop and note that what we call “adoption” in the US is a specific legal construct in which the biological parents lose all legal rights to the child (they may or may not be dead) and the adoptive parents gain 100% of legal rights. The adoptive parents are thereafter considered to be the child’s “true” parents, and even birth certificates are re-written with the adoptive parents’ names on them instead of the biological parents’.
This construct is only about 100 years old, and not common to all societies. According to Wikipedia:
… the Progressive movement swept the United States with a critical goal of ending the prevailing orphanage system. The culmination of such efforts came with the First White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children called by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1909, where it was declared that the nuclear family represented “the highest and finest product of civilization” and was best able to serve as primary caretaker for the abandoned and orphaned. … As late as 1923, only two percent of children without parental care were in adoptive homes, with the balance in foster arrangements and orphanages. …
Prior to 1900, and in many cultures today, even kids who were “adopted” were (as far as I can tell,) still considered the children of their biological parents.
Adoption has taken many forms throughout history (and today), shaped by local family norms and traditions. Just off the top of my head, we have:
Fosterage (half adoption)
Noble fosterage/kin fosterage
Elder care adoption
Kin adoption is an obvious one: that’s taking in the children of your deceased relatives. Kin adoption has probably been with us for as long as there’ve been people–maybe longer–and is probably a human universal. It is obviously a genetically sound strategy. Your nephews and nieces and even cousins share more of your DNA than distant strangers, so ensuring that they survive helps put more of your DNA into the world.
Stranger adoption is the adoption of some totally unknown infant whose parents you’ve probably never met. That’s what Genghis Khan was up to, though technically, he might have met those kids’ parents for a few seconds before killing them. Stranger adoption is still uncommon in many societies, like China, Korea (hence the large numbers of Chinese and Korean babies available for foreigners to adopt,) and the Arab states.
The Justinian Code, issued between 529 and 534, distinguishes between kin and stranger adoption, clearly regarding kin adoption as superior:
…when a filius familias is given in adoption by his natural father to a stranger, the power of the natural father is not dissolved; no right passes to the adoptive father, nor is the adopted son in his power, although we allow such son the right of succession to his adoptive father dying intestate. But if a natural father should give his son in adoption, not to a stranger, but to the son’s maternal grandfather; or, supposing the natural father has been emancipated, if he gives the son in adoption to the son’s paternal grandfather, or to the son’s maternal great-grandfather, in this case, as the rights of nature and adoption concur in the same person, the power of the adoptive father, knit by natural ties and strengthened by the legal bond of adoption, is preserved undiminished, so that the adopted son is not only in the family, but in the power of his adoptive father. [bold mine.]
Fosterage, as I’m using it here, is any kind of semi-adoption where either the child’s ties to their birth family are not entirely severed, or the adoptive parents are not considered the child’s full parents. For example according to Wikipedia, adopted children in pre-modern Japan could inherit their parents’ aristocratic rank (if they had one,) but adopted children in pre-modern Britain could not. The Japanese therefore practiced full adoption while the British practiced fosterage. (See also Wuthering Heights, aka “an essay on the dangers of adopting Gypsy orphans.”) Historically, most “adoptions” were probably closer to fosterage.
Noble fosterage/kin fosterage are systems of shuffling children around between different parts of a family or allied families. For example, children might go live with an aunt for a year while their mother works in a distant village, or the child of a noble family might be raised by a different noble family to help cement an alliance between them. In these cases, the birth parents aren’t seen as “giving up” their children at all. Noble/Kin fosterage seems to have been common in ancient Rome, Ireland, and many African societies (and probably many others.) It is probably also related to the practice of having a child “adopted” by a tradesman to teach the trade, as detailed in the Code of Hammurabi, though we would today call this “apprenticeship.” (See Hammurabi discussed below.)
In Gaelic Ireland a kind of fosterage was common, whereby (for a certain length of time) children would be left in the care of other fine members, namely their mother’s family, preferably her brother. This may have been used to strengthen family ties or political bonds. Foster parents were beholden to teach their foster children or to have them taught. Foster parents who had properly done their duties were entitled to be supported by their foster children in old age (if they were in need and had no children of their own). As with divorce, Gaelic law again differed from most of Europe and from Church law in giving legal standing to both “legitimate” and “illegitimate” children.
Elder care adoption appears to be a system that older folks in some societies have used to ensue that there is someone younger around to care for them in their old age, if none of their biological children can be called upon (or they have none.) These systems don’t appear to involve the parents caring for the child, or necessarily any children at all–a 20 year old is a much better choice for someone to care for you as you age than a 5 yr old, after all. I don’t know much about this system, so I’ll have to add more details when I find them.
Forced adoption is just any adoption that happens to be forced by the state, eg, the removal of Native American children by the US gov’t, the removal of Polish children who looked too German by the Nazis, the removal of Aborigine children by the Australian gov’t, and many individual cases involving parents deemed incompetent to care for their children.
The Code of Hammurabi goes into some detail on various situations that might arise related to adoption:
185. If a man adopt a child and to his name as son, and rear him, this grown son can not be demanded back again.
186. If a man adopt a son, and if after he has taken him he injure his foster father and mother, then this adopted son shall return to his father’s house.
187. The son of a paramour in the palace service, or of a prostitute, can not be demanded back.
188. If an artizan has undertaken to rear a child and teaches him his craft, he can not be demanded back.
189. If he has not taught him his craft, this adopted son may return to his father’s house.
190. If a man does not maintain a child that he has adopted as a son and reared with his other children, then his adopted son may return to his father’s house.
191. If a man, who had adopted a son and reared him, founded a household, and had children, wish to put this adopted son out, then this son shall not simply go his way. His adoptive father shall give him of his wealth one-third of a child’s portion, and then he may go. He shall not give him of the field, garden, and house.
192. If a son of a paramour or a prostitute say to his adoptive father or mother: “You are not my father, or my mother,” his tongue shall be cut off.
193. If the son of a paramour or a prostitute desire his father’s house, and desert his adoptive father and adoptive mother, and goes to his father’s house, then shall his eye be put out.
Jeez! Hammurabi sure had something against adopted kids wanting to know who their biological parents were! (And people think closed adoptions are a pain.)
#191 reminds us that, in Hammurabi’s time, adoptive children were not seen as full children with the same rights as other children, but were seen as only 1/3 children–and unable to inherit certain classes of property.
In the long history of steppe warfare, a defeated tribe was looted, some members taken prisoner, and the rest left again to their own devices. … In his defeat of the Jurkin, however, Temujin [Genghis Khan] followed a radical new policy that revealed his ambition to fundamentally alter the cycle of attack and counterattack and of making and breaking alliances.
(In short, he executed all of the Jurkin’s leaders.)
He then took the unprecendented step of occupying the Jurkin lands and redistributing ht remaining members of their group among the households of his own clan. … Temujin took them into his tribe not as slaves, but as members of the tribe in good standing. He symbolized this by adopting an orphan boy from the Jurkin camp and presenting him to Hoelun [his mother] to raise in her ger [yurt] not as a slave but as her son. By having his mother adopt the Jurkin boy, as he had her previously adopt one each from the defeated Merkid, Tayichiud, and Tatars, Temujin was accepting the boys as his younger brothers. …
In a final display of his new power, Temujin ended the Jurkin episode with a feast for both the victorious Mongols and their newly adopted relatives.
While they were plundering a Tatar camp the Mongols found a small boy. Genghis Khan took the boy and gave him to his mother, Ho’elun, who adopted him as her son. She called the boy Shigi Qutuqu. There is another version of the story. The child was taken by Genghis Khan in 1182-3, after a raid against the Tatars. He and Borte [Genghis Khan’s wife] at that time had no children. He gave the young tatar to Borte, who brought him up as an adopted son. … Some call him a stepbrother of Genghis Khan, others his adopted son. Shigi Qutuqu, who was very intelligent, later became lord chief justice of the Mongol empire.
Genghis Khan’s sympathy for the orphans of war may have been due to his own childhood experiences; when he was nine years old, his father was murdered by the Tatars and he, his mother, and brothers were driven out of their clan, rendered essentially homeless. Later he was captured and enslaved by the Tayichiud. (Obviously he escaped.)
Approximately 1 in 200 people today appears to be a direct descendant of Genghis Khan, making him the one of the most evolutionarily successful humans in all of history. (If not the most successful.)
If we want to get technical, some of those folk are probably descended from Genghis Khan’s brothers, making Genghis Khan’s dad history’s most successful guy, but Genghis Khan achieved that success by conquering one of history’s biggest empires, and Genghis Khan’s dad achieved his success by siring Genghis Khan.
While I don’t normally advocate “be like Genghis Khan,” simply because I like being alive, if Genghis Khan thought adoption was a good idea, maybe it can be a viable evolutionary strategy.
Tomorrow: A bit of historical and cross-cultural context
If a man adopt a child and to his name as son, and rear him, this grown son can not be demanded back again. …
If a man, who had adopted a son and reared him, founded a household, and had children, wish to put this adopted son out, then this son shall not simply go his way. His adoptive father shall give him of his wealth one-third of a child’s portion, and then he may go. He shall not give him of the field, garden, and house.
This post was inspired by a friend’s question: Can adoption of non-kin be a viable genetic (or memetic) strategy?
The full version of the question was more like, “Liberals are more positive toward interracial marriage, leading to more genetic variation in liberal communities. Could adoption be a similarly viable strategy for Conservatives, by increasing the ethnic diversity of the people who believe in their memetic values?”
Adoption could also work by just increasing sheer numbers of conservatives, even if it does nothing to genetic diversity.
My first thought was, “That sounds a lot like what the Amercan Indians were trying to do when they kidnapped and adopted white children, and I think Genghis Khan did something similar with the children of subjugated peoples.”
These customs stand in contrast to groups that have historically attempted to wipe out their enemy’s children, like the entire rest of the Mongol conquests, so I thought this question worth exploring.
But there’s a lot here that first needs unpacking. For starters, despite what people claim to believe, conservatives actually have very slightly higher interracial marriage rates than whites and are more likely to live in multi-ethnic households.
Let’s get some graphs.
The data is clear: atheists are the most hated minority in the country, followed by gun owners. (I jest; people are actually pretty polite to atheists, and you’re rude to a gun owner at your own risk.)
America’s most prominent ethnic division is actually between “liberals” and “conservatives,” a feature reflected in attitudes toward “gun owners” and “atheists.” Most Ameicans don’t think of this as an ethnic difference (even though it is,) just because they aren’t all that conscious of the different ethnic settlement patterns that influenced the modern political distribution.
Or to put it another way, there isn’t anything magical in the dirt in Massachusetts or South Carolina that has been turning the people there liberal or conservative for the past 300 years or so. The difference is mostly ethnicity–some ethnicities are just more liberal or conservative–but a lot of people (even people who loudly claim that there’s more intraracial than interracial variation,) regard all whites as one great big undifferentiated ethic mass that just happens to hold different opinions in different regions.
The majority of Americans (even the majority of very conservative Americans, however many of those there are,) claim to care more about one’s beliefs (and actions) than about superficial things like skin tone or the geographic origin of one’s ancestors.
This is anti-tribalism.
Tribalism (the human norm,) states that it is morally correct to overlook differences of opinion within your own group, (family, clan, tribe, nation, ethnic group, ethnie, thede, race, clade, take your pick,) and always side with your group against outsiders.
So Americans are perfectly okay with saying that they would not want to marry someone who holds belief they disagree with, but look askance at saying they have an ethnic preference. (Which explains why, even when people say things that are quite negative about outgroup members, they tend to quite vociferously object that they are not “racist” because their objection is not to the outgroup’s appearances, but to their behaviors.)
But what people say and what they do are different matters. According to Volokh:
…among families with step-children or adopted children, 11 percent of conservatives were living in mixed race households compared to 10 percent of liberals living in mixed-race households.
Similarly, 9.4 percent of Republicans living in step- or adopted families were in mixed-race households, compared to only 8.8 percent of Democrats in such families. (Again, this small advantage for Republicans is not large enough to be statistically significant).
And looking at all children instead of non-related children,
11.9% of conservatives live in mixed-race families compared to 11.4% of liberals.
9.5% of Republicans live in mixed-race families compared to 11.2% of Democrats.
Unfortunately, I am having difficulty finding statistics on the exact % of conservatives/Republicans who are in mixed-race marriages vs. the % of liberals in mixed-race marriages–we may posit that there is a difference between an interracial couple with three interracial children and a white person who, on their third marriage, marries someone who already has a half-white child, but just eyeballing the data, I don’t think there’s going to be a huge statistical difference.
(The difference between “conservatives” and “Republicans” in the data is due to may conservative blacks and Hispanics not voting Republican.)
The folks who are most strongly anti-miscegenation tend to be old people (over the age of 65,) and the folks who are most likely to be in mixed-race households, conservative or liberal, are the minorities themselves–many blacks and Hispanics are married to each other.
If you look only at whites, according to Volokh,
2.0% of non-Hispanic white conservatives live in mixed-race families compared to 2.4% of non-Hispanic white liberals. …
2.8% of non-Hispanic white Republicans live in mixed-race families compared to 0.7% of non-Hispanic white Democrats.
Assuming these numbers are correct…
61% of whites say they’re okay with intermarriage, but only about 2% of them have mixed or other-race children, including step and adopted kids. Given the number of minorities in the country + random chance, about half of the whites who say they’re okay with intermarriage ought to have a mixed-race family–30% of whites, not 2%.
Of course, these folks would object that it’s not that they don’t like minorities, they just happen not to be around any they’ve fallen in love with. It’s not about superficial skin tones; it’s just something else that happens to be incredibly well correlated with superficial skin tones, like paying exorbitant rents in order to live in neighborhoods without any minorities in them. But those Republicans, dude, they’re like super racist.
What about the numbers on adoption?
The Wikipedia page on Adoption starts out nicely, then descends into gibbering mush. It has, tragically, very little information on non-Western adoption customs, and not as much as I’d hoped for on historical adoptions in the West. For that, we’ll have to search elsewhere.
But we’re still going to make use of it for the stats:
The number of adoptions is reported to be constant since 1987.
America has about 3 times the adoption rate as the rest of the West, and 15x Australia’s rate!
What’s up with that?
The most commonly given reason for wanting to adopt is infertility, and one of the big drivers of infertility is being overweight, (the other big one is being too old,) so perhaps Americans are just more prone to infertility.
We probably have a larger population of children in orphanages/foster care than the rest of the West, which might have inspired people over time to be more receptive to adoption.
Or perhaps we have a relatively unique view on the idea that family doesn’t have to be blood-related.
International adoptions, though they get a lot of press, are less than 15% of overall adoptions in the US; in Sweden, by contrast, they are over 99.999% of adoptions. (This may be due to few Swedish children being up for adoption.)
Also, according to Wikipedia, only 1.4% of ever-married American women adopt. (What about unmarried women?) So it sounds like the average adopting family adopts 2 or 3 kids.
Unfortunately for our original inquiry, a 2% intermarriage rate is not going to do much, short term, to white genetics.
By contrast, intermarriage may be an effective strategy for forging genetic/memetic alliances among minorities.
An adoption rate of 3%, even if it were confined entirely to conservatives, isn’t doing much to overall numbers. As a memetic strategy, it is also constrained by the fact that political orientation, in adults, is determined largely by a combination of genetic personality factors and random chance.
The Shakers did an experiment along these lines: none (or extremely few) of the Shakers had children, because they didn’t believe in having sex. However, many Shakers adopted children, raising them in Shaker communities. No one forced these children to become Shakers, but it was certainly hoped that they would.
Most of them didn’t, and the Shakers have died out. (Technically, as of 2012, there were three elderly shakers left in Maine.) You just can’t replace yourself though adoption.
So tomorrow, let’s look at some cases where adoption might have played a larger genetic role: the Mongols, the Indians, and if I can find anything interesting on it, ancient Europeans.
The August, 2015 issue of the New Yorker is out, with an article about a couple who decided to adopt 20 children, (and have two biological kids of their own.) We have a fancy name for a house like that: orphanage.
There are a lot of names in the article, so I’m going to write this in quick-guide form.
Sue Hoag: Mom. Middle class background (last name Scottish,) came from a family of four. Once read a book about a family that adopted a lot of kids and decided it sounded like a great idea. (I suppose I should be glad that my childhood fantasies were clearly impossible, like “fly like a bird.”)
Hector Badeau: Dad. Lower-class French-Canadian background; one of 16 children.
They married in 1979, (about the same time as my parents) and decided that Jesus–for they are Christian conservatives–wanted them to devote their lives to supporting the oppressed and seeking social justice. They now have great-grandchildren (by contrast, my parents only have grandkids, and they’re still little.)
Children, in order:
Chelsea: Biological child, born 1980. “They had planned to wait a few years to have kids, taking time to pay off their loans for college and the bookstore, but Sue got pregnant a few months after the wedding.” (Translation: they know abstractly that people should behave responsibly, but don’t actually have any impulse control.) Chelsea got pregnant after college but before marriage, but eventually became a productive member of society with a job at a media company in Philadelphia. (Note to those with the paper copy: the electronic version of the story has a correction about the timing of Chelsea’s pregnancy.)
Jose: Adopted from El Salvador, where his parents had died in the war. Stayed out of trouble and is now a programmer for a bank in Zurich. Possibly the most successful of the bunch.
Isaac: biological child. He stayed out of trouble, eventually married and joined the military.
Raj: Adopted from India, premature, cerebral palsy.
These first four children were born/adopted in close succession. The parents then took in several foster kids, and Sue discovered that she sucks at parenting, so Hector became the stay-at-home parent while Sue worked, which seems to have gradually improved the family’s otherwise disastrous finances. Two years spent running a group home for teenage boys: 23 boys.
Joelle: adopted from Florida; fetal alcohol syndrome. She got pregnant while still in school.
Sue decides to have her tubes tied so they can maximize the number of adopted children without any more biological children getting in the way.
“It was their calling to adopt, and if they filled up their family with more biological children their mission would be compromised.”
Abel: 10; SueAnn: 8; George: 7; Flory; 5. A sibling group adopted together from New Mexico.
SueAnn got pregnant at 15, gave the baby up for adoption, then got pregnant again and dropped out of college.
At 28, Abel got sent to prison for 7 years for statutory rape of a developmentally disabled 16 yr old adoptive sibling.
Flory got pregnant twice while still in school.
Here the narrative pauses to describe the emotional high Sue got off adopting children:
“There was something about the difficulty of new children that Sue loved. …
“Sue: It was almost like a high, that new time, getting to know them and the challenge of finding the right school and the right this and the right that. It’s something that, after everyone’s settled, you sort of miss, and you say, Oh it’s time to do that again.”
Obviously Sue suffered from some form of addiction, like a cat-hoarder unable to see the effects of adding yet more cats to her household on her ability to care for the cats she already has.
George: local adoption from a mom who’d read about Sue and Hector and thought they’d be good parents for her unwanted kid.
David: 13; Tricia: 15; Renee: 16; Lilly: 17; Fisher: 18; JD: 19; and were another sibling group, from Texas. David was deaf; Renee was sexually abused by her father when she was five (and then beaten by her mother for it.) Then their dad got shot and their mom abandoned them. Technically, only the youngest three were adopted; the oldest three were too old for adoption, but were unofficially taken into the family.
“All the teen-ages were nervous about being black in Vermont, but Fishe and Lilly were wildly popular in high school. Lilly was a track star, and Fisher was cool and good-looking.
“Fisher: I was popular. It went to my head, I won’t lie to you. All the little white girls saw I was the best dancer in the school, and I was the only black guy.”
Fisher dropped out of college, got three girls pregnant and went to prison for beating one of them. Lovely guy, I’m sure.
JD got his girlfriend pregnant.
Lilly got pregnant during college and dropped out.
Tricia got raped while in high school and had a baby (raised by Hector.)
Renee got pregnant while still in school.
At some point, Sue and Hector start running an adoption agency; Sue has a succession of adoption-related jobs.
Alysia: Severe cerebral palsy, adopted from Texas. The family taught her to walk and dance. Hector was convinced god told him to adopt her. She got pregnant twice before the age of 16, and then had sex with her 28 yr old adoptive brother, Abel, who was sent to prison for statutory rape. Has the intellectual abilities of a third grader.
Dylan: 4 yr old with shaken baby syndrome. Blind, severe brain damage. Adopting him was Hector’s idea. Died at 24.
Wayne: 3 yrs old, Sanfilippo syndrome. Guaranteed death; made it to 25 years old. Sue and Hector were convinced god told them to adopt him.
At this point, even the kids start telling the parents not to adopt anymore kids.
“Isaac: You can only stretch yourself so thin. We’d ask them, Are you sue this is something you want to do, and they said it was something they needed to do, that if they didn’t help this boy then nobody was going to. … ”
“Chelsea, [on the subject of adoption]: I’ve never wanted a large family. I’ve witnessed firsthand everything that’s gone into adopting, and I’m not sure I’m ready to deal with that.”
“Sue and Hecor told the children they would consider their opinions and pray on it. Not long afterward, Sue flew down to Florida to bring Adam home. … Most people would think first about how an adoption would affect the children they had; but to sue and Hector, the need of the child who was still a stranger weighed equally in the balance.”
So Sue and Hector didn’t give a shit about their children’s opinions or what was best for them.
Adam: 6 yrs old, Sanfilippo and FAS. He died at 11.
Aaron: 4, Adam’s brother. Adopted after another family sent him back to the adoption agency because he had severe anger issues. Sue and Hector thought he would be good for his brother (they might have been right.)
Geeta: 14, originally adopted by another family from India, but other family decided they couldn’t handle her anymore. She got pregnant twice while still in school.
At one point, 8 refugees from Kosovo were also living in their house; later, 4 from Sudan.
They move into a bigger house that they can’t afford to heat. Family has to huddle together for warmth, along with 4 teenage squatters and various other comers and goers, like runaway friends of their kids. Sue gets a new job, and their marriage begins degenerating.
Sue and Hector are totally mystified at why their kids keep getting pregnant, and swear that they have explained how pregnancy works and even gotten the kids Depo-Provera and the like, but obviously that’s a lie.
Ladies and gents, be responsible: spay or neuter your teenager.
By now, the stress of dealing with all of these kids and their problems has plunged the parents into a black hole of depression, alcoholism, and despair. They can’t get the kids who are the product of people who had no impulse control to control their impulse to fuck. It takes only an iota of understanding biology and heritability to understand why that might be, but the parents don’t seem to have grasped this and instead blame themselves.
“It wasn’t just the awful stuff that hadn’t worked out the way they’d hoped: Only a few of the kids still went to church. None of the kids had adopted kids of their own.”
No shit, Sherlock. If you’d adopted kids from families with a strong impulse to take care of their and other people’s children, they might grow into people with a strong impulse to adopt. If you’d adopted children from conservative Christian families, they might grow into conservative Christians like Sue and Hector. Instead they’d literally castrated themselves and adopted many of their kids from families with no impulse control and severe violence and sexual dysfunction, and they got kids with similar traits. The most functional adoptee, Jose, came from a war zone, and so very well might have had competent, loving parents who died nobly defending their community rather than fuckups.
Not all adopted kids turn out fucked up; most adopting couples are genuinely motivated by the desire to provide a loving home to someone who otherwise wouldn’t have one. Both a strong desire to parent children and a generous, trusting nature toward others are features of NW Euro society, and such people can help make society a nice place to be.
Morality is a system of mutual obligations between people. You are obligated to your family and friends, as they are to you. You are obligated, to a lesser degree, to your community and nation, as they are to you. You are not particularly obligated to, say, the citizens of another country, just as they are not obligated to you. As such, the Hector and Sue’s first obligations were to the children they already had (and each other.) It is not moral to take in so many children that you can no longer take proper care of them (and when your developmentally disabled kid gets pregnant twice before the age of 16, you are actually doing something wrong.) You are not morally obligated to destroy your own life to help strangers.
Also, for those of you who are considering adoption, remember that no matter how kind and loving and good-hearted you are, you can’t erase who your kids are. That’s not always big stuff, like criminality or pregnancy. It might be little things, like whether they go to church or like to study, how much they talk. Genetics has a huge effect on personality, so any adopted kids are likely to have a very different personality than you do. Chances are good that adoption will not be all peaches and roses; most kids don’t get put up for adoption unless something is seriously defective about their families or themselves in the first place, so be prepared for some pretty severe issues.
“3 in 4 former prisoners in 30 states arrested within 5 years of release” (from the Bureau of Justice Statistics press release, April 22, 2014.)Inspired by my recent musings, I thought I would refresh my memory on recidivism stats–I have a vague memory that murderers tend not to recidivate, (murderers tend to stay in prison for a very long time) and that car jackers do, but it’s a bad idea to make claims based on vague memories of old data.
So here’s what the press release has to say:
“An estimated two-thirds (68 percent) of 405,000 prisoners released in 30 states in 2005 were arrested for a new crime within three years of release from prison, and three-quarters (77 percent) were arrested within five years…
More than a third (37 percent) of prisoners who were arrested within five years of release were arrested within the first six months after release, with more than half (57 percent) arrested by the end of the first year.”
We could probably save some time and effort if we could effectively identify those third before releasing them. HOWEVER, I don’t know what percent of these people are being re-arrested on parole violations that the rest of us might not really consider “crimes”, like missing a meeting with one’s parole officer or forgetting to register one’s address.
“Recidivism rates varied with the attributes of the inmate. Prisoners released after serving time for a property offense were the most likely to recidivate. Within five years of release, 82 percent of property offenders were arrested for a new crime, compared to 77 percent of drug offenders, 74 percent of public order offenders and 71 percent of violent offenders.”
I’m guessing violent offenders spent longer in prison, and thus were older when released.
“Recidivism was highest among males, blacks and young adults. By the end of the fifth year after release, more than three-quarters (78 percent) of males and two-thirds (68 percent) of females were arrested, a 10 percentage point difference that remained relatively stable during the entire 5-year follow-up period.
Five years after release from prison, black offenders had the highest recidivism rate (81 percent), compared to Hispanic (75 percent) and white (73 percent) offenders.”
So, while while the chances of being a criminal vary widely between groups, criminals from all the groups recidivate at fairly similar rates. This suggests that we are probably actually arresting the subset of people who are criminals most of the time.
“Within five years of release, 61 percent of released inmates with four or fewer arrests in their prior criminal history were arrested, compared to 86 percent of those who had 10 or more prior arrests.”
Maybe guys with 10 prior arrests shouldn’t be released until they’re well over 40?
Some finer grain on recidivism by specific crime, after five years (note: this does not tell us the new offense,) from the PDF:
Looks like my vague memories were correct. Murderers are the least likely to recidivate, probably due to the personal nature of many murders (you’ve got to really hate that guy,) and murderers being older when released, but they are still folks who aren’t great at solving inter-personal problems or running their lives. Rapist probably figure out non-illegal ways to have sex, or else get old enough to be less interested in it. Drunks probably learn to call a cab when drunk.
Relatively speaking, of course. A 50 or 60% recidivism rate still isn’t something that inspires great confidence. To be clear, again, this is not data on how many released murderers commit another murder or how many released rapists commit another rape–this is arrest for any crime. A further breakdown of re-arrest by new crime vs. old crime would be interesting.Carjacking, by contrast, looks like the Xtreme sports of crime–people attracted to this form of violent thrill-seeking seem unlikely to change their spots or find more legal alternatives.
From the abstract: The role of parenting in the development of criminal behavior has been the source of a vast amount of research, with the majority of studies detecting statistically significant associations between dimensions of parenting and measures of criminal involvement. An emerging group of scholars, however, has drawn attention to the methodological limitations-mainly genetic confounding-of the parental socialization literature. The current study addressed this limitation by analyzing a sample of adoptees to assess the association between 8 parenting measures and 4 criminal justice outcome measures. The results revealed very little evidence of parental socialization effects on criminal behavior before controlling for genetic confounding and no evidence of parental socialization effects on criminal involvement after controlling for genetic confounding.
In other words, looks like my basic thesis is holding up. Overall, I suspect it is far easier to fuck up a kid so they don’t meet their full potential (say, by abusing/neglecting) than to get rid of the effects of negative traits. It’s probably best to try to work with people’s inclinations by finding them life-paths that work for them, rather than trying to mold them into something they aren’t.