The BITE Model Applied to the Adoption Industry and Mainstream Adoption Narrative

Part One: Introduction and Behavior Control

By: Becca Dragon

This is going to be a four part series, examining the BITE model by Steven Hassan as it relates to our mainstream adoption narrative and industry in the United States.  What is the BITE model? 

According to the Freedom of Mind Resource Center, “Many people think of mind control as an ambiguous, mystical process that cannot be defined in concrete terms.  In reality, mind control refers to a specific set of methods and techniques, such as hypnosis or thought-stopping, that influence how a person thinks, feels, and acts.

Based on research and theory by Robert Jay Lifton, Margaret Singer, Edgar Schein, Louis Joylon West, and others who studied brainwashing in Maoist China as well as cognitive dissonance theory by Leon Festinger, Steven Hassan developed the BITE Model to describe the specific methods that cults use to recruit and maintain control over people.  ‘BITE’ stands for Behavior, Information, Thought, and Emotional control.”

In this series, I am going to attempt to show how Adoption as it is perceived and practiced in much of Western Society (namely the United States) contains elements of the practices of controlling and brainwashing Cults.  This first part will address the B in BITE “Behavior Control”.

****But first, all the regular caveats:  *Yes, not all adoptions/adoptees/people.  *No, I don’t speak for all adoptees.  Just myself.  If other adoptees resonate with what I write that is about that individual adoptee.  *No, I am not angry and unhealed…just thoughtful, observant, able to explore complexities, and expressive.  *Even if you still think I am angry and unhealed…yes, I covet your prayers.  I will pray for you as well.  Leave prayer requests below. *If your response to reading this is “so what is the alternative?” I invite you to read our FAQs where this question is answered.  *My opinions do not mean I had a “bad adoption” although even if I did…I would still have a right to my opinions, perhaps even more so.  ****

  Let’s go through the Behavioral Controls from the BITE model one by one:

  • PROMOTE DEPENDANCE AND OBEDIENCE:  Your adoptive family is your “real” family.  You must show fealty to your adoptive parents as your “real” parents, and must not do anything that hurts their feelings because you OWE them.  You would be in a really bad place in life if it wasn’t for them, they rescued you.
  • MODIFY BEHAVIOR WITH REWARDS AND PUNISHMENTS:  If you praise adoption to others, you are praised and elevated.  If you criticize any aspect of adoption, you are shamed, told you are angry, dismissed, and discounted.  Often, when adoptees seek their biological roots, they are treated with silence or withdrawal of love from adoptive parents/families/etc
  • DICTATE WHERE AND WITH WHOM YOU LIVE:  Adoptees are never given a choice (because they are too young to offer consent) in where they are placed and raised.  This decision is made by OTHER PEOPLE, external to natural birthright.  Once an adoptee becomes an adolescent, they have no power to live elsewhere (ie, with biological family in an “open” adoption) should they so desire.
  • RESTRICT OR CONTROL SEXUALITY:  Case by case for adoptees.  Prevalent in adoptees adopted by supra-conservative evangelical families.  Many adoptees are immediately assumed to be at risk for “inappropriate” sexual behavior because of the circumstances of their conception.  For birthmothers, adoption is frequently seen as an act of redemption for the sin of premarital sex.
  • CONTROL CLOTHING AND HAIRSTYLE:  Case by case for adoptees, especially those adopted into evangelical controlling families.  In transracial adoption, ignorance of culture/dress/hair of the adopted child has resulted in many many adoptees feeling uncared for, misplaced, and misunderstood.  I will let my TRA cribmates chime in on this.
  • REGULATE WHAT AND HOW MUCH YOU EAT AND DRINK:  Again, case by case.  Many stories of adoptees having their diet controlled because the adoptive parents misinterpreted genetic body type as “fat”, and in need of restriction.  Restriction/control of food being used as punishment prevalent in stories from adoptees.
  • DEPRIVE YOU OF 7-9 HOURS OF SLEEP:  Standard practice for BSE (and into the 90’s) infant adoptees was phenobarbital in the bottle to aid in sleep/regulation.  When infants are deprived the comfort of their natural mothers when first born, they are being deprived of the natural process of human development (which includes sleep and mood regulation).
  • EXPLOIT YOU FINANCIALLY:  Most relinquishments/adoptions occur because of financial crisis and instability in the birthfamily.  This crisis is used for emotional coercion and pressure to relinquish.  Adoptees are “goods transferred” in an adoption contract.  Money exchanges hands for the transfer of these goods.  Without the goods, no money.  Without the money, the lights would go out at the agencies and adoption lawyer offices, no salaries could be paid, etc… Many foster carers provide care for the paycheck from the state.  Often, little to no financial assistance is offered to the originating family seeking the return of their children from State Care.  If adult adoptees wish to seek their natural and biological roots and history, they frequently must pay for this.  Sometimes as simple as a DNA test, to having to pay 3rd party mediators, exorbitant court fees, private searchers and investigators.  This prevents many adoptees from being able to search what should be rightfully theirs, THEIR IDENTITY.
  • RESTRICT LEISURE TIME AND ACTIVITIES:  Case by case.  Frequently happens in foster care.
  • REQUIRE YOU TO SEEK PERMISSION FOR MAJOR DECISIONS:  An adoptee must gain permission from a court to see their original birth certificate in most US States.  In some of those States, an adult adoptee must garner permission from birth and/or adoptive parents to seek identifying information of any kind.  Intercountry adoptees must seek permission to see their original records (if any exist) from their sending country, their adoptive parents, and/or the agencies that handled the adoption to get any information.

Tomorrow, I will post PART TWO, which refers to Information Control.  Please add any more examples of Behavior Control (whether personal or more universal) you can think of below.

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