Act of transferring parental rights and duties to someone other than the adopted person's biological parents. The practice is ancient and occurs in all cultures. Traditionally, its goal was to continue the male line for the purposes of inheritance and succession; most adoptees were male (and sometimes adult). Contemporary laws and practices aim to promote child welfare and the development of families. In the latter part of the 20th century, there was a relaxation of traditional restrictions on age differences between adoptive parents and children, on the parents' minimum income level, on the mother's employment outside the home, and on placements across religious and ethnic lines. Single-parent adoptions and adoptions by same-sex couples also became more acceptable. Beginning in the 1970s, a growing adoptees-rights movement in the United States called for the repeal of confidentiality laws in most states that prevented adoptees as adults from viewing their adoption records, including their original birth certificates.
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A parent is a father or mother; one who sires or gives birth to and/or nurtures and raises an offspring. The different role of parents varies throughout the tree of life, and is especially complex in human culture.
A mother is the biological or social female parent of a child or offspring. The maternal bond describes the feelings the mother has for her (or another's) child. In the case of a mammal such as a human, the mother gestates her child (called first an embryo, then a fetus) in the uterus from conception or implantation until the fetus is sufficiently well-developed to be born. The mother then goes into labour and gives birth. Once the child is born, the mother produces milk to feed the child.
Like mothers, fathers may be categorised according to their biological, social or legal relationship with the child. Historically, the biological relationship paternity has been determinative of fatherhood. However, proof of paternity has been intrinsically problematic and so social rules often determined who would be regarded as a father e.g. the husband of the mother.
Although not constituting completely reliable evidence, several congenital traits such as attached earlobes, the widow's peak, or the cleft chin, may serve as tentative indicators of (non-)parenthood as they are readily observable and inherited via autosomal-dominant genes.
A more reliable way to ascertain parenthood is via DNA analysis (known as genetic fingerprinting of individuals, although older methods have included ABO blood group typing, analysis of various other proteins and enzymes, or using HLA antigens. The current techniques for paternity testing are using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP). For the most part however, DNA has all but taken over all the other forms of testing.
David Haig has argued that human fetal genes would be selected to draw more resources from the mother than it would be optimal for the mother to give, an hypothesis that has received empirical support. The placenta, for example, secretes allocrine hormones that decrease the sensitivity of the mother to insulin and thus make a larger supply of blood sugar available to the fetus. The mother responds by increasing the level of insulin in her bloodstream, the placenta has insulin receptors that stimulate the production of insulin-degrading enzymes which counteract this effect.