Racial identity and Transracial Adoption

Building Kinship and Community: Relational Processes of Bicultural Identity Among Adult Multiracial Adoptees. Gina Miranda Samuels. Family Process, 2010. – Study of multiracial adult adoptees and how they perceive their bicultural identity.

Research on transracial adoption has traditionally focused on white parents adopting African American children. Whilst it is not surprising that mixed heritage children exist within transracial adoption, it may be surprising that these children make up between 70-95% of most sample populations. This study uses a conceptualisation of culture and identity: a cultural identity is not inherited, but acquired through interactions with family and environment – thus one’s cultural identity may differ from one’s racial identity. Using the case of transracially adopted multiracial adults to highlight an alternative family context, and thus the process of African American enculturation, this interpretive analyses of interviews with 25 adult multiracial adoptees produced four patterns in their bicultural identity formation: claiming whiteness culturally but not racially; learning to “be Black” – peers as agents of enculturation; biological pathways to authentic Black kinship; and bicultural kinship beyond Black and White. The author, using the conceptualising race as an ascribed extended kinship network and using notions of “groundedness” from bicultural identity literature, highlights the relational aspects of participants’ identity development. Culturally relevant concepts of bicultural identity are proposed for practice with multiracial adoptees who have multiple cultures of origin and for whom white mainstream culture is transmitted through family as a first culture.