What Factors Contribute to the Identity Development of International Adoptees?

Natalie Sinkler, St. Catherine University


International adoptees face a unique challenge in their ethnic identity development because they are raised in a different culture than they were born, usually by parents of a different race. Understanding what helps develop an adoptees ethnic identity helps adoption professionals and adoptive parents facilitate a positive identity development among adoptees. The study consisted of four qualitative interviews with adult international adoptees regarding the factors that contributed to their ethnic identity development. Using a developmental framework and grounded theory the interview were analyzed and coded for themes. Participants shared a common development over time starting at a pride of their adoptee status to avoidance during adolescence. In young adulthood learning about their birth country and better understanding their adoption was significant for all four participants. Other factors contributing to the participants’ identity development include visiting birth country, meeting birth family, family support, family dynamics, mental health and disability. Data shows many factors influence an adoptees identity development and each person is different. The data also shows support for pre-adoption services for adoptive families. Implications for further research are discussed.