TUE July 10, 2018 TUE July 10, 2018
10:30 am 10:30 am
International I International I

Jessica Matthews

Adam Pertman

Untangling the Web: The Internet's Transformative Impact on Adoption

Jessica Matthews

Jessica Matthews

David Brodzinsky

Symposium: Achieving Authenticity in Cultural Ethnic Racial Socialization: Factors Related to Parents’ Socialization Choices for their Adopted Children

Maintaining Connection to Birth Culture among International Adoptive Parents

In the US, Hague Adoption Convention guidelines require parents adopting internationally to receive ten hours of preadoptive training. For some parents, this training includes information regarding maintaining the child’s connection to their heritage and culture. Though this goal of connection is espoused in the Hague Convention document itself, adoptive parents place varying importance on birth culture, and make heterogeneous choices with respect to if, how and when to incorporate birth culture into the family life. Studies that address cultural socialization (CS) are often limited to families adopting from a single country, or to small sample sizes. Furthermore, most studies have been limited to descriptions of what and how families maintain child’s birth culture, and do not venture into the depth of cultural authenticity achieved by adoptive families. Many families struggle to provide authentic CS due to a number of factors including their own understanding of the culture of origin, location and cost of services, and other family concerns (child’s special needs, child’s age).

In a large, international online survey, parents adopting internationally since 1983 were asked questions concerning the maintenance of a connection to their child’s birth country: whether they felt a connection was important, and what they did to maintain that connection, for themselves and for their adopted child(ren). Parents were mostly from the U.S. (88%), straight (91%), and married (75%). The research team wanted to assess the cultural authenticity of parents’ socialization practices, particularly as related to the level of importance parents placed on maintenance of culture. Using a five-point scale based designed to address the level of authentic cultural socialization, 1132 parents’ open-ended responses were rated by a team of coders. These ratings were then analyzed with respect to parent report on the importance of culture, families’ access to postplacement services, whether parents received preadoptive training, parents’ desire to return to the child’s country of origin in the future, and the severity of the child’s special needs.

Preliminary results show that families who place importance on maintaining connection to birth culture are more likely to engage in more authentic CS. Parents who traveled as a family (outside of adoption requirements) to the child’s birth country were more likely to engage in authentic CS. Neither receipt of ten hours of preadoptive training, nor finding the training useful had any relation to authentic CS. Parents who indicated that adoption was their first choice (versus simply wanting more children, or being infertile) were more likely to engage in authentic CS. This study provides information regarding parents’ willingness and ability to achieve cultural authenticity in socialization practices.

Connecting to Birth Culture: How Transracial Adoptive Parents Think about Adoptees' Birth Culture and What They Provide

Adult adoptees and adoption professionals encourage transracial adoptive parents to provide cultural socialization (CS)-learning about and facilitating a sense of connectedness to children’s birth culture. Research showed that CS is related to positive development. However, recent studies reveal complexities in CS. Some studies point out inadequate measurement of CS, and some suggest particular types of CS activities may bring emotional and psychological stress to transracial adoptees (TRAs). Using a cultural depth continuum, Zhang and Pinderhughes found that CS varied in depth. Some parents provided CS at a deeper level, whereas other parents provided at more superficial level.

This qualitative study aimed to understand how transracial adoptive parents think about their children’s birth culture and their thought processes in providing CS. Thirty (29 mothers) parents participated; all but two are White. Children were adopted internationally and domestically. Semi-structured interviews ranged from 30 to 90 minutes. Questions included what CS activities parents provided, discussions about race, ethnicity, and culture with adoptees, parents’ thought about CS, and their thoughts about depth of birth culture. All interviews were taped and transcribed verbatim. The project used a phenomenological approach to understand TRA parents’ thought processes about CS. Fourteen themes emerged from the interviews. Themes included what parents did to provide CS (e.g., providing role models, creating a normalizing context, acknowledging parents’ limit in providing authentic CS, and parents’ wishes to do more) and how parents provided CS (motivations for providing CS, adapting activities to meet adoptee’s needs, reflecting on parents’ roles in CS, addressing similarities and differences in the family, valuing the importance of CS, and varying degrees of understanding in birth culture). Analysis of individual themes showed that what and how parents provided CS varied in depth.

Some parents had very deep reflection and understanding of CS, whereas other parents had less deep understanding of culture, hence less authentic practice of CS. For example, unpacking how parents described their role in the journey of CS, some parents saw CS as their absolute responsibility to initiate and foster interest in the adoptee; some parents would adjust their CS according to adoptees’ responses and needs; other parents would wait for adoptees to ask for CS and they would provide support. Some parents saw CS as a family journey, in which they were willing to partake in everything with adoptees; other parents were not ready or not comfortable having sensitive discussions with adoptees, and would rely on other trusted people to do the job. Parents also noted that their roles in CS change as children grow and change. The presentation will discuss variations in what and how adoptive parents provided CS, implications of the variations, and suggestions for researchers and practitioners.

Family Engagement in Adoption Socialization and Cultural Socialization: Developmental and Contextual Considerations

To promote healthy identity development in adoptees, adoptive parents face the task of providing adoption socialization (AS) – exposure about adoption and the child’s own story. Parents raising transracial (TRA) adoptees also face the task of providing cultural socialization (CS). Researchers of CS typically focus on the frequency or amount of exposure adoptive parents provide. Yet, Pinderhughes argues that AS and CS are complex processes that include multiple components, including not only frequency and amount of exposure, but also who in the family participates (engagement) and who delivers the activity. She urges the consideration of parents’ role in providing CS (e.g., parents’ attitudes about differences (adoption/biological, racial/ethnic and cultural), beliefs about the value of providing CS, and parents’ ethnic identity).

Research has shown links between parents’ role and CS, for example, parents who believe in the value of providing CS are more likely to provide it than those who do not; parents who view their family as multicultural also provide more CS. Yet, engagement in AS and CS do not exist in a vacuum; families have busy lives and adoptees often have special needs. Whether, when, what, and how much AS and CS parents provide may be linked to these other realities. Thus, other realities in families’ lives must be considered in understanding engagement in CS. This study drew from Pinderhughes’ model to examine the relation of developmental considerations (adoptee age, presence of special need) and contextual considerations (parents’ work hours; % of time parents spend on family activities and on child-specific activities) to CS engagement (measured as who in family participates, and frequency of activities).

113 adoptive parents from 25 states responded to an online survey about adoptive parenting. Participating parents were mostly White (84%), straight (84%), and highly educated (85% with at least college degree). Mean age of the target adoptees was 12.5 years old. 68% of families adopted internationally. 74% of families were TRA. Parents chose their top 3 of 32 possible AS and CS activities and answered questions (e.g., why the activity, who participates, frequency, etc.) about each activity. Parents also reported in detail about their work hours and family schedules. Initial descriptive analyses show: The top 3 activities across families were adoption talks (n=48), travel to birth country (n=42), and playdates with TRA peers (n=21). Across all 3 activities, over 50% of parents reported that the full family participated. The percentage of parents’ time spent on/with children ranged: 21% time on academics, 12% on special needs, 18% on sports/health, 15% on art/music, and 35% on free time. Analyses to examine links between 1) developmental and contextual considerations and 2) degree of family engagement and frequency will be reported, along with implications for understanding the degree of family engagement in AS and CS.

Lesbian, Gay, and Heterosexual Adoptive Parents' Attitudes Towards Racial Socialization Self-efficacy

Prior research indicates partaking in the cultural and racial socialization process is associated with an adoptive child’s cultural and racial identity, self-esteem, and psychological adjustment. Thus, becoming a parent to a child of color necessitates parents make an effort to help their child thrive in a world where racism persists. However, even when parents consider socialization practices to be important, they report varying levels of confidence in enacting these practices. Families headed by sexual minority (SM) adoptive parents are among the most racially diverse. Same-sex couples are more likely than heterosexual couples to adopt transracially and significantly more likely to adopt Black children, which is especially important because children of color tend to have longer stays in foster care. Emerging research on transracial adoption among lesbian, gay, and heterosexual families yielded no differences in adjustment among families and research shows children flourish in transracial adoptions across lines of sexual orientation. An important gap in the literature is the need to ensure that practitioners are versed in the best practices to support transracial adoptive families, including those headed by sexual minority parents.

The purpose of our study was to (1) test the factor structure and validity of the Racial Socialization Self-efficacy subscale (RSSES) and examine if it is a valid measure of transracial parents’ self-efficacy about enacting racial socialization practices among SM parents, and (2) explore parents’ endorsement of perceived self-efficacy enacting these practices among sexual minority-headed families, where few previous research exists.

Participants were from Brodzinsky’s Modern Adoptive Families study, an online survey of diverse adoptive families. This subsample included 1,020 parents from different families (829 heterosexual parents, 100 lesbian mothers, 91 gay fathers). Parents self-reported on feelings of self-efficacy using the 7-item Racial Socialization Self-Efficacy subscale (RSSES) by Berbery and O’Brien. Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) suggests the RSSES is a valid instrument in SM-headed families with high internal reliability (heterosexual parents: a= .94; lesbian mothers: a= .93; gay fathers: a=.95) and excellent fit statistics (e.g. all CDs <0.98) across parental sexual orientation. Respondents reported relatively high ratings (M=3.96 out of 5.00) across items, suggesting parents are generally endorsing self-efficacy. Although this nationwide survey is the largest dataset of adoptive SM parents to date, it cannot be considered representative of all transracial adoptive families. However, our study suggests the utility of this instrument with all adoptive parents, across sexual orientation. Implementation of these scales could be especially useful for providers working directly with transracial adoptive families, especially in the capacity of parent training in preparation for placement.