New Study Looks at
Adult Adoptees and Culture
We have received a summary of a new large study, funded by the W.K. Kellogg
Foundation and the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, called Beyond
Culture Camp: Promoting Healthy Identity in Adoption.
This study, conducted by the Evan B. Donaldson
Adoption Institute, looked at online surveys completed by 468 adopted adults,
making it the largest study ever conducted of adopted adults in the U.S.,
focusing on identity.
For the purposes of comparison, the summary
paper concentrates on 179 respondents born in South Korea and adopted by
two white parents, and 156 Caucasian respondents born in the U.S. and adopted
by two white parents. Those two groups, which constituted over 70 percent
of the respondents, were chosen in order to make two fairly homogenous groups
for comparison purposes.
South Koreans do make up the largest group
of internationally adopted persons in the U.S., and intercountry adoption
from Korea has a longer history than from any other nation. One in ten Korean
American citizens came to the U.S. through adoption.
Although this particular group is featured
in the study, a review of literature, as well as the Institute records, indicates
that many of the observations and conclusions in the paper may also apply
to other domestic and internationally adopted persons and families.
The study used several standardized measures
about family functioning, ethnic identification, socialization, adoptive
parent-child relationships, and current psychological well-being. There were
questions about background, challenges in identity formation, and experiences
or services that were most helpful in developing a positive adoption
Similar to many other studies of adoption,
the respondents were, by definition, a self-selected sample, in that they
chose to answer the survey and were aware of it in the first place.
The study is titled "Beyond Culture Camp" because
they recognize that parents adopting across race and culture, and the
professionals who guide them, have developed mechanisms such as culture camps
and festivals to help children maintain connections to their culture and
countries of origin. The study indicated that such activities are important
but are not enough in and of themselves for an adoptee to develop a healthy,
positive sense of self. The major findings of the study include:
Adoption is an increasingly significant
aspect of identity for adopted people as they age, and remains so even when
they are adults.
Race/ethnicity is an increasingly significant
aspect of identity for those adopted across color and culture.
Coping with discrimination is an important
aspect of coming to terms with racial, ethnic identity for adoptees of
Discrimination based on adoption is a
reality, but more so for white adopteeswho also report being somewhat
less comfortable with their adoptive identity as adults than do their Korean
Most transracial adoptees considered
themselves white or wanted to be white as children.
Positive racial/ethnic identity development
is most effectively facilitated by "lived" experiences such as travel to
native country, attending racially diverse schools, and having role models
of their own race/ ethnicity.
Contact with birth relatives, according
to the white respondents, is the most helpful factor in achieving a positive
Different factors predict comfort with
adoptive and racial/ethnic identity for Korean and white adoptees.
There are many surprising facts in this study.
Of those in the study, 86% had taken steps to find birth families. Forty-nine
percent of the Korean adoptees had searched, and 30% had had contact with
birth relatives, despite the common assumption that internationally adopted
persons, particularly Korean, have little access to information. For whites,
45% had contact with birth relatives.
The Korean adoptees reported that their feelings
of being discriminated against was more about their ethnicity, while the
White adoptees reported discrimination (largely from extended family) was
because of their adoptive status.
The study makes several recommendations for
parents and professionals, including:
Expand parental preparation and
post-placement support for those adopting across race and culture.
Develop empirically based practices and
resources to prepare transracially and transculturally adopted youth to cope
with racial bias.
Promote laws, policies and practices
that facilitate access to information for adopted individuals.
Educate parents, teachers, practitioners,
the media and others about the realities of adoption to erase stigmas and
stereotypes, minimize adoption-related discrimination, and provide children
with more opportunities for positive development.
Increase research on the risk and protective
factors that shape the adjustment of adoptees, especially those adopted
transracially/culturally in the U.S. or abroad.
This study is so important, many readers will
want to read it in detail. Go to:
www.adoptioninstitute.org for more information. Send your
comments to us at O.I.!
Excerpted from the January 2010
edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
© 2010 Operation Identity