Mentor: Rebecca S. New Ed. D., Associate Professor of Education, and Mary Jane Moran Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Family Studies
Parental Ideologies Regarding Childhood Identity in Transracial Adoptions
Adoptions in general have been the topic of numerous research endeavors, the bulk of which focuses on who chooses to adopt and why, as well as the emotional and mental health of those adopted. More recently, transracial adoptions have become a focus of researchers due in part to the increase in such adoptions as well as a growing interest in the challenges of transracial households in a pluralistic society. Given the historical relationship between African-Americans and Anglo-Americans in this country, much of this latter body of research has tended to focus on the racial identity of African-American children adopted by Anglo-American families. In such studies the transracially adopted child or adolescent is typically interviewed and his or her racial self-esteem and identity subsequently assessed. In neither body of research (on adoptions in general and those focused specifically on transracial adoptions) has there been much attention paid to the role of parental beliefs and goals as they might influence the adopted child's developing sense of identity.
As a means of addressing this void in adoption research, the purpose of this qualitative study was to examine parental ideologies within the context of transracial adoptions as they pertain to the formation and maintenance of the adopted child's racial, cultural and familial identity. The sample for this pilot study was comprised of ten mothers of adopted transracial children (meaning, in this case, of a racial and cultural background other than that of the mother) residing in the New England area. The primary method of data collection consisted of an open-ended, approximately hour-long interview. Sample mothers were asked questions pertaining to their attitudes, beliefs, and expectations regarding the central importance of the child's racial, cultural and familial identity in determining parenting strategies. Mothers were also asked to describe their priorities and practices with respect to family relations, and the child's experiences with individuals from his or her own cultural group.
Following the tape-recorded interviews, the tapes were transcribed and data were analyzed according to three emergent themes. These themes included: parental beliefs about the child's understanding of the adoption process, parental goals regarding the identity of the adopted child, and strategies used by the parents to realize those goals. Results of this study suggest that these parents of transracial adoptees share many common beliefs regarding the importance of their child's racial, cultural and familial identity that contribute to parenting practices. In this same sample, however, it was also found that the parents practiced different approaches in accomplishing their goals. This study points to the value of and the need for further studies on the beliefs, goals and strategies of transracially adoptive parents as they pertain to the cultural, racial and familial identity of the child.