Adopting Identities: How Socialization Varies Between Adoptive Families

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CONFERENCE: Posters-at-the-Capitol

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Walden, Joseph; Sullivan, Cristin
Child Psychology; Developmental Psychology; Personality and Social Contexts; Social and Behavioral Sciences
conference paper description
Socialization – communication with others about one’s life history – is one way in which individuals impart their perceptions, values, and morals about the world. Although this occurs in many contexts, the transmission of life histories often occurs within families, from parent to child. The term family has evolved to reference more than biological connections, as adoption has become a common option for many lesbian (L), gay (G), and heterosexual (H) parents. Socialization is especially of interest for family dynamics, as parents may want to encourage the expression of children’s identities, even when they don’t share an identity with their child, such as racial-ethnic, sexual, or adoptive identities. In this study, we explored racial-ethnic and sexual minority parent socialization with a focus on how these strategies work alongside open communication in adoption in order to socialize a child. We were specifically interested in how these socialization practices translated into families with sexual minority parents. Data was collected through questionnaires and in-person interviews with a sample composed of 96 LGH couples. We hypothesized that LG parents, and parents that did not share an ethnic identity with their child, would exhibit greater openness in adoption communication. This is because when parent and child identities do not overlap, it is expected that more communication is required to explore these differences and to be proactive in preparing children for real-world conversations about their family structure. By learning more about adoptive families, our study provides insight into diverse family systems. Additionally, our investigation has implications for public policy and personal life, specifically by providing information to inform adoption laws. This study also complements past adoption research by analyzing socialization strategies of an understudied population in LG parents. Finally, this work begins to address misconceptions about LG parents who historically have been barred from adoption in America.