A Systematic Mapping Review of the State of Knowledge on Adult Transracial and Intercountry Adoptees: Prioritizing Future Research, Practice, and Policy
Purpose: Despite the recognition of the lifelong impact of adoption, most of the empirical research has focused on the adjustment of adoptees during childhood and adolescence. Over the past few decades, research on adult international and transracially adoptees have burgeoned, but to date no systematic review of this research has been conducted. This paper presents findings from a systematic mapping review of the evidence on adult international and transracial adoptees. A mapping review, or evidence map, is a relatively new method for systematically examining the extent and range of research activity in a given field. The utility of evidence maps is that they can include other systematic reviews, but provide a broader characterization of the research landscape; hence, they are useful for identifying novel gaps and opportunities for future research, practice, and policy.
Method: This mapping review was guided by the Campbell Collaboration guidelines for systematic reviews. Inclusion criteria included studies of transracial or international adult adoptees (ages 19+) and children of adopted adults, empirical studies defined by a methods section, measurement of some variable in relation to adoption, published between 1995 and 2018. The comprehensive search included 21 electronic databases, research registers, grey literature sources, and reference lists of reviews and studies. Over 5,500 titles and abstracts were reviewed. Studies that met inclusion criteria were categorized by topic and type of study and coded using a data-coding instrument developed by the authors.
Findings: Empirical and clinical research on adult international and transracial adoptees has focused on: 1) identity development, 2) birth parent search and reunion, and 3) overall psychological adjustment of adoptees. There is emerging literature on parenting among adopted adults. Another emerging area includes adult adoptee activism and community organizing, which has centered on access to original birth certificates, birth parent search and reunion, and issues of race and connection to birth countries among internationally adopted transracial adult adoptees.
Implications: Findings from this review set clear directions for practitioners and researchers on which to collaborate and address the lifelong impact of adoption. Research must be conducted to better understand how adoption needs such as identity and birthparent search, in childhood and adolescence manifest in adulthood. Furthermore, there is a clear opportunity to understand the intergenerational effects of adoption. Finally, adoption professionals and scholars need to consider how the issues identified by adult adoptee organizations and activists can be incorporated in future adoption practice, research and policy. We argue that a better understanding of the outcomes of adoption in adulthood is central to guiding the future of adoption research, practice, and policy.