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The Primal Wound: Understanding The Adopted Child

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,066 ratings  ·  129 reviews
The Primal Wound is a book which is revolutionizing the way we think about adoption. In its application of information about pre- and perinatal psychology, attachment, bonding, and loss, it clarifies the effects of separation from the birth mother on adopted children. In addition, it gives those children, whose pain has long been unacknowledged or misunderstood, validation ...more
Paperback, 231 pages
Published March 14th 2003 by Nancy Verrier (first published April 1993)
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Geneviève It's a non-fiction book about raising and understanding the special issues adopted children have.…moreIt's a non-fiction book about raising and understanding the special issues adopted children have.(less)
Christina Cattane This book is considered the adopted persons bible for a reason. I balled my way through it because for the first time in my life somebody "understood'…moreThis book is considered the adopted persons bible for a reason. I balled my way through it because for the first time in my life somebody "understood' my pain. I can't recommend it highly enough.(less)

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Aug 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This was a fascinating book. As an adopted person, it illuminated a lot of the feelings and issues I have had for years but never had a name for. It made me realize that it's healthy to have anger and sadness related to the loss of my birthmom, whereas before I thought I should just be grateful to have ended up with the family I got.

It also brings into question adoption as an institution and how our society might rethink it. The author makes the point (and backs it up with evidence) that taking
Mar 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-help
The thing about being adopted is that even if you are "well-adjusted" and have been told since you were an infant that you were "lucky to have the family you have," you still feel like an alien.

The problem with being well adjusted and lucky - is that you feel guilty for feeling like an alien. And there are few (if any) people who understand the pain and frustration you've been carrying around in your head and heart.

That's not to say that other people are unloving or mean, or that you're whole li
Elizabeth Andrew
Jan 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A friend of mine said THE PRIMAL WOUND was a must for every adoptive parent. At first I agreed. I appreciate Verrier's insistence that we acknowledge the fundamental wound children experience when they are separated from their birth mothers. Too many adopting parents (myself included) don't understand the gravity of this hurt and how it shapes the child's entire life.

But the more I read Verrier, the more frustrated I became. The primal wound she explores is just one in a panorama of human suffe
May 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone/everyone who was adopted.
Shelves: non-fiction
This book shed so much light on certain issues of adopted children, and helped me understand myself better. Whether or not they can access them, adoptees have feelings about being adopted, and this book clearly lays out the biology/psychology behind it all, and how to deal. I wish I had found this book during adolescence.
Michelle Edwards
Apr 03, 2019 rated it did not like it
I did not finish this book it was so bad. As an adoptee I've had a few issues. I figured some were related to the adoption. So I bought this book. It is extremely biased toward the negative and very inaccurate. First off - she needs to learn scientific method. She frequently uses the phrase "most adoptees" - based on what? What is your sample size? Did you have controls? I suspect she bases her opinions on the adoptees she has seen in her practice. So hardly a non-biased study with a well repres ...more
Rhonda Rae Baker
Jul 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I read this in '93 when I was searching for my birth family. Found them but was too late to meet my birth mother. Later identified my birth father, who was different than my legal father at the time, and know my half-sister who doesn't acknowledge me as such. There is always a tangled story when it comes to birth and adoption...I was blessed to be adoped to the wonderful parents that raised me...(-:

Looking at this over ten years later, I realize there were many things about myself that I couldn'
Sep 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: any adoptee who struggles (or has struggled) with feelings of grief/loss/rage
more about myself than i wanted to know...j/k :) this book was powerful because it validated and put words to feelings i have always had but never been able to fully express.
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
As both a birth mother and an adoptive mother, I found this book emotionally wrenching. Reading it did make me feel less alone, however, as it helped me to understand that the behaviors and personality quirks with which my now-adult adopted son has struggled are common in adopted children. I just wish I had known enough to read this when he was a confused, adopted teen-ager. I highly recommend this book to any adoptive parent. And to professionals -- such as psychotherapists, guidance counsellor ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Deborah Day
Jul 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is an insightful and intense book for an adoptee wanting to understand him or herself. Also good for those that love an adoptee to help you understand some of the "issues" that arise for some adoptees. ...more
Jan 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adoption
As an adoptee, this was such an eye opener for me and explained so much of my behaviour that I'd never considered adoption-related.
Every adoptee should read this at least once.
Jan 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-healing
I think that every adopted child should read this book. Even when you feel like you've "worked through it all" there are things that linger you never knew stemmed from your initial Primal Wound. ...more
Josh Hamon
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
Her idea that separating a child from their birth is traumatic no matter what is very intriguing. However her style was a struggle for me. She mixes making statements that sound like they are from clinical studies with new age comments and statements. It was hard to parse out the data from her opinion. It would have helped a lot if in addition to the references listed in the back some of her statements cited specific studies.
Jan 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
the most difficult book i'll never finish. it's also another book i tend to give away a lot, mostly so i won't feel guilty for not getting past page 33. ...more
Katy Defay
Apr 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Very interesting theory on something I always wondered about--why adopted kids, even those adopted as newborns right from the hospital, have such struggles.
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 19-favorites
As the title of this book about adoptees indicates, author Nancy Newton Verrier views adoption as a process that wounds adoptees on a fundamental level. Her central theory based on research and personal experience is that severing the connection between a mother and child leaves a wound which profoundly impacts sense of self, including self-worth and self-esteem. She has a strong message for adoptees:

"What adoptees need to know is that their experience was real. Adoption isn’t a concept to be l
Jul 28, 2019 rated it did not like it
This is the most ridiculous piece of rubbish, that attempts to prey on adoptive parents wondering if there is something important they should know of their children's experience. It is a dramatic claim that all adopted children are basically shells reeling from the worst trauma imaginable, the devastating cleave from the birth mother. I was open to there being bad news and, of course, separation from the birth parents is a loss that they carry with them, but there is nothing to back up her claim ...more
Apr 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Adoptees, adoptive parents and parents hoping to adopt
A must-read for any adopted kid or parent of an adopted kid. It explains many reasons that adopted kids do some of the things they do. And it can help both the adoptee and the adopter understand why their parent/child relationship is so different from those who were raised by their biological families. This book was by far one of the best books I've ever read. ...more
Apr 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommended
The best book about adoption that I have read.
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
I approached this book with some skepticism, but Wow, the author nailed many of the feelings I’ve faced as an an adoptee.
I’ll definitely have to spend some time thinking about the many issues in this book. Definitely worth a read by anyone in the adoption triangle.
Nov 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-of-2014
I read this as a person who was given away as an infant and then adopted 2 weeks later by a wonderful couple. I was never convinced that because I was "chosen" (something told to me in a well meaning way by my parents), that this fact somehow cleared up or erased the fact that I was given up by my mother. I do believe in the primal wound and now have words to describe it and this author does a great job communicating this with examples, research and her own experience as an adoptive mother and p ...more
Kevin Bunick
Jul 06, 2017 rated it did not like it
I was adopted at birth, and I am the father of a child adopted at 5 months. This book is fucking garbage and the author is doing incredible harm to the wonderful experience that is adoption. If one had no personal experience with adoption, they would be so frightened of adopting a child, and would think that adoptees are permanently mentally damaged to the point of severe mental illness just because they were adopted. I'm sorry she has had a difficult time with her adoption experience, but she i ...more
Jan 13, 2020 rated it did not like it
I can't even be a good adoptee.

This is like the adoptee's bible. It's one of the most recommended books in the groups I belong to. Some of it rang true. But it rang true like horoscopes ring true.

Then Ms Verrier wrote that under hypnosis that people remember attempted abortions upon them.

She wrote this at the very end of the book... And all that came before fell like a demolished building.
Mar 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A highly enlightening, partly devastating look into the minds of adopted children. I highly recommend this book if you know someone who is adopted and can't seem to figure out why they act the way they do sometimes. I also recommend it for adopted children but please be sure to have someone you can talk to. ...more
Jun 13, 2014 rated it did not like it
Seems that whatever child one adopts, that child will be permanently scarred, and the adoptive parens (adoptive mother especially) will never quite be able to fully bond and having a loving relationship with her child. (And furthermore, sending the kid to daycare, regardless of circumstances and necessity, is horrendously detrimental.)
Panda Incognito
I would like to slap two stars on this book and move on, but it is too problematic for me to leave it with a negative rating and no explanation. This book has lots of issues with its methodology and overall assumptions, and it includes the most disturbing take on abortion that I have ever encountered in my life.


According to this book's thesis, children who are adopted at birth or during their first three years of their lives experience a "primal wound" from the disrupted bond with their
I was recommended this book by a birth/biological mother. We had an argument about the term 'birth/biological mother'. She told me that term was dehumanizing and that she, a birth/biological mother should be called a 'mother'. I'm an adoptee, an older one. I actually have memories of my biological mother who kept me as long as she could and even wrote me a letter when she put me up for adoption. I only spent three months in the orphanage. My 'birth/biological mother' will always be birth mother. ...more
Feb 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book was recommended to me years ago as my wife and I began our journey as adoptive parents. I would add it to my list, then remove it, then add it again -- then remove it. Finally, I picked it up because it became relevant in my work as a therapist. I regret not reading it sooner. This book helps make sense of so much of what adoptive parents experience and what they see their adopted children experience. I'm embarrassed that I did not read it sooner; I think I was afraid to learn more abo ...more
Vicki Riddiough
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-book-list
The idea of the primal wound is valid & I have my own fostering experiences that concur with a lot of what Verrier discusses. I do think it’s a book that should be in the fostering / adoptive parent’s personal library, as it is so important to honor & validate the child as an individual with a unique history, with a heritage all their own, one that does not include foster / adoptive parent.

I felt this would be a much more challenging book to read if one had adopted / is hoping to adopt & did not
Kirsten Johanson
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I’ve been working through this book over a few months. As an adoptive parent, these chapters and words and concepts are sticking with me more than anything else I’ve read on adoption.

I struggle at times with our system of adoption. I struggle to think that my child is “just fine now” because we love him and are providing stability. I struggle with the balance of advocating for ethical adoption practices when truly needed and wanting to restructure the current system so that so many adoptions ar
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