Transracial adoption: Identity FormationThe Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute recently released a report titled “Beyond Culture Camps: Promoting Healthy Identity Formation in Adoption“.  This adoption study was one of the largest studies of identity formation focused on adult adoptees.  We summarize some of the key findings about cultural identity in the blog titled Raising Adopted Kids -New Research.

This study by the Adoption Institute was designed to compare identity formation in inter-racially adopted adults and adult adoptees adopted by same race (white) parents. This study was one of the largest studies of identity formation focuseing on adult adoptees. Researchers compared the responses on an extensive questionnaire by 179 adults born in South Korea and adopted by two Caucasian parents with the responses of 156 Caucasian adult adoptees born in the U.S. and adopted by two White parents. 82% of all respondents were women. The white respondents were on average 13 years older than the Korean respondents. (White mean age 44, Korean mean age 31)

“Identity” involves answering the all important “who am I” question. This report examines two separate but related identities for adopted adults: 1) their identity as an adopted person, and 2) their identity with their racial/ethnic group.

Some findings:

  • The majority of Korean respondents (78%) reported that as children they “sometimes/often/all the time “experienced teasing because of their racial status, but only 22 % indicated being teased as children because of being adopted. The Korean adoptees found racial discrimination “sometimes/fairly often/very often” coming from strangers (80%), classmates (75%), childhood friends (48%), and teachers (39%). One-third also experienced discrimination in the workplace, from extended family and from their partners’ parents.
  • The importance of adoption increases with age. The researchers thought that adoption and racial identity issues would peak during adolescents, but their results did not support this assumption. The importance of adoptive identity increased for the Koreans (73%) in college and remained high into young adulthood and beyond. There was a similar pattern for White adoptees through high school, although adoption identity issues did not increase in college. It might be fair to say that much of the “work” of adoption and racial/ethnic identity for transracially adopted people occurs in adulthood, although no doubt the foundation is laid in childhood and adolescence.

We particularly appreciated that the study asked the adult adoptees what their parents did that was helpful in their formation of their identity as an adopted person and as a person of a color. We cover those suggestions in the blog: Raising Adopted Kids-New Research.