Transnational and Transracial Adoptees: Finding Identity Among Strangers

Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type


First Advisor

Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez


Adoption remains an essential aspect of daily life for many American families. Past studies on transnational children have made numerous connections between adoptees’ identity development and their adoptive parents’ involvement in their lives. Today, studies done on transnational/ transracial adoptions have started to decelerate. Historically, articles that have made it into circulation have focused on identity development and environmental impacts on adoptees. In the past couple of years, newer articles have exposed the political disputes relating to the increased occurrence of transnational adoptions. These articles address concerns centered around the cultural identities of the adopted children becoming weaker when entering their new adoptive culture. In this study, I will aim to fortify against this misguided understanding of the retention of identity in these transnational and transracial adoptees. In the research, I will review the effects of these personal interactions between parents and children, answer the question of, “what environmental/ parental actions affect the development of an adoptive child’s identity” and “how much do these factors affect the adult lives of these adoptees?” My research will ask how much parent and environmental involvement really effects the growth of a child’s identity during their adolescents to adulthood. This study will cover eight, thirty to forty-minute in-depth interviews with four adult adoptees, three females and one male, along with their primary parent, to help clarify significant developing moments within these adopted children’s childhoods. From conducting this research, I can reaffirm previous research stating that increased communication and interaction with the child’s country of origin can provide them with a stronger understanding of their identity and place in the world. Further, the information gathered demonstrates how American cultural expectations have been used to shape these adoptees’ adult lives through their social experiences in childhood. An unexpected insight that I found was the effect bullying had on building resilience within adopted children helping to reinforce cultural identity. The purpose of this study is to update the limited knowledge of transnational and transracial adoptees’ identity development and share this information to a broader audience.


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