I’m adopted. So am I!: A thematic analysis of the shared stories of being adopted
Looking at the research literature in the field of adoption, one of the key findings there is the need for more research that focusses on the lived experiences of adoptees, and ideally, research carried out in collaboration with the adopted persons. This was also a theme emerging from many of the plenary addresses at the 5th International Conference on Adoption Research, which took place in 2016 in New Zealand. Adoption researchers have also called for more studies that ensure better outcomes for adopted youth, which can only happen when the young adoptees are included in the research. The desire to heed that call for more adoptee-driven research led to the current project.
As one of the Adoption Ambassadors involved with the “I’m Adopted” website, as well as a young adult adopted internationally from Romania, the first author had the idea to analyse the stories being shared on the “I’m Adopted” website, in order to better understand their lived experiences that they were sharing with others in this online community. Together with the second author—another adult adoptee and long-time adoption researcher—the two developed a research plan that would involve thematically analysing a random selection of the stories being shared on the website.
The population being targeted is adopted young adults from around the world who have chosen to share their experiences of being adopted on the “I’mAdopted” forum. Methodologically, we have been independently analysing the selected stories, then jointly coding to ensure a high degree of inter-rater reliability. While analyses are still ongoing (since saturation has not yet been reached), two preliminary themes are starting to emerge: thoughts of searching for biological family, and the need for support in finding birth family. Some minor themes yet to be fully developed involve awareness of one’s own heritage; identity crises; and finding physical resemblances in biological family.
Once the analysis is completed, we feel that the results will form a fuller and truer picture of the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of adopted persons. In identifying some shared themes, we believe that the results will be of interest—and value—to the adoptees themselves, who will benefit from seeing those common threads, and learning that they are not alone in their experiences. Seeing the key themes running through the stories will also be of value to professionals who work with adopted persons and want to better understand how it feels to live the life of an adopted person.