Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Boundaries and bridges: Exploring Korean adoptees' reports of adoptive family communication during and after intrusive interactions and racial communication
by Docan-Morgan, Sara Jane, Ph.D., University of Washington, 2008, 220; 3318179
Abstract (Summary)

This study explored adult Korean adoptees' reported experiences with intrusive interactions and racial communication. Intrusive interactions involve visibly adoptive families being asked by those outside the family to explain their family's form. Examples include questions such as, “Is she adopted?” or “Where are your kids from?” Racial communication occurs when the adoptee receives malevolent and/or essentializing comments or questions related to his or her race, generally from people outside the adoptive family. It is argued that the dynamics of these interactions resulted at least in part from the children's visible racial difference from their White parents. Research questions explored adoptees' reports of these encounters, their responses to them, the extent to which they avoided talking about these encounters and race more generally with their adoptive parents, their parents' reported responses to these encounters, and the parental responses that they recommend.

Twenty-three in-depth interviews and 11 open-ended survey responses comprise the data set for this study. Findings of thematic analyses of the transcribed interviews and survey responses suggest a range of reported experiences with intrusive interactions, including relational comments/questions, aesthetic commentary, lingering looks, mistaken identities, and peer questions. Racial communication was also made manifest in various forms, including racial derogation, interactions with other Asians, and communicated stereotypes. Both types of interactions were reported often to elicit negative emotions such as hurt, frustration, and loneliness. Some of these negative emotions were expressed to result from participants' strong desires to “fit in” as they were growing up.

Results also provide insight into topic avoidance about race, suggesting that the adoptees in this study tended to avoid reporting instances of racial derogation and talking with their parents about race due to perceived and past parent unresponsiveness, and self-protection. Participants also provided a range of recommendations for parents as to how to respond to these encounters. Practical implications are discussed.

This study provides an increased understanding of intrusive interactions and racial communication adoptees' perspectives, extends the work on topic avoidance in families, contributes to an understanding of boundary management within diverse families, and contributes a new context in which enacted social support can be studied.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Manusov, Valerie
Commitee:
School: University of Washington
School Location: United States -- Washington
Source: DAI-A 69/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Social work, Communication, Individual & family studies
Keywords: Adoption, Family communication, International adoption, Korean, Race, Racial communication, Racism, Transracial adoption
Publication Number: 3318179
ISBN: 9780549674382
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