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.
Searching for What’s Meant to Be: Transnational Adoption, Family, and Identity
On October 29, 2015, The People’s Republic of China announced an end to its One Child Policy, establishing an amendment that transformed the policy to a two-child policy. The amendment made global news as many were left reflecting on the 1979 One Child Policy and its effect on the Chinese and global economy. One of the most significant effects of the One Child Policy, which legally restricted many Chinese citizens to having just one child and severely punished those attempting to have more, was the displacement of “out of plan” (read: illegal) children – those who were born to parents not legally allowed to reproduce. Since 1991, these adoptees have grown up all over the world – with more than 85,000 of these children adopted to families in the United States. The process, experiences, and outcomes of these and other forms of transnational adoption have sparked a complicated discourse among anthropologists, historians, adoptive parents, etc. And while the conversations began long before most of the adopted subjects were old enough to take part, the adoptees will likely have to contend with the arguments made in these books and from those around them for their entire lives. This paper, written by a transnational adoptee born China and raised in a predominantly white suburb of Boston, explores some of the popular and otherwise widespread arguments regarding adoption, family and belonging. Prefaced by a thesis interviewing 23 transnational adoptees from China, this paper delves into another transnational adoptee’s experience in trying to negotiate her notions of these concepts while pursuing a very public search for her birth parents in order to argue that the degree to which adoptees resonate with what is said about their experience varies from person to person and may even wax and wane for each individual over the course of their lifetime.
"Lucky Adoptees" vs. "Bad Seed" Adoptees: Comparing Microaggressions Experienced by Same Race Versus Transracial/International Adult Adoptees
Background: The history of adoption in the U.S. has incorporated a wide variety of policy and practice shifts over time. As adoption practice incorporated transracial and international adoptions, visible or conspicuous adoption placements due to racial differences within families generated reactions, comments, and biases often in the form of microaggressions. Utilizing the construct of microaggressions to identify and understand the conscious and unconscious attitudes held toward and about adoptions, both same race and transracial, provides a vehicle through which to explore the stigma of adoption. This study uses the framework of racial microaggressions and the more recent framework for adoption microaggressions to compare the same race adult adoptees’ (SRAs) experiences of microaggressions to transracial/international adult adoptees’ (TRIAs) experiences of microaggressions.
Methods: In this qualitative interview study of microaggressions targeting birth mothers, we interviewed 15 domestic and international adult adoptees who were either same race (n = 6) or transracially/internationally adopted (n = 9). Using a grounded theory approach, we analyzed their experiences and recollections of oppression, discrimination, and stigma. In coding teams of two, four pairs from a research team identified microaggressions that targeted birth parents that were either committed by others or by the adoptees themselves.
Findings: Comparisons between SRAs and TRIAs indicated that SRAs reported more adoption microaggressions on average than did TRIAs with a few exceptions. TRIAs reported more incidents of grateful adoptee, cultural limbo/invalidation of heritage, phantom birth parent, and commerce in adoption. With respect to racial microaggressions, SRAs reported very few racial microaggressions whereas TRIAs predominantly reported alien in own land, color blindness, and ascription of intelligence racial microaggressions.
Implications: The findings from this study indicate that adoption microaggressions are commonly experienced by both SRAs and TRIAs but the types of microaggressions seemed to be influenced by the visible racial differences between adoptees and their parents and by TRIAs’ status as racial ethnic minorities in their communities. This study will provide greater insight into the stigma and oppression that affects attitudes, beliefs, narratives, and messages surrounding adoption. Increased understanding of the dynamics of subtle microaggressions directed at adult adoptees generates important information for improving the education and the training of mental health professionals.