The psychological resilience of transracial Korean American adoptees : the mediating effects of family cohesiveness and conflict during adversity
- With approximately half a million children being adopted internationally, the U.S. is currently the top receiving country for international adoptions (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011). The historical and continued role that the U.S. has played in providing homes for thousands of parentless children has established the importance of research scholarship that examines the effects of transracial adoption on child outcomes. In particular, there is a scarcity of research that investigates the psychological well-being of transracial adoptees and how specific family practices might better support them. In this study, I use a resilience framework to examine the psychological resilience of transracially adopted youths, or their ability to display a pattern of positive psychological adaptation in the context of adversity or risk (Masten & Obradovic, 2006). The proposed study used a mixed methods approach to examine the family practices that are fundamental for fostering resilience among orphaned-adopted youths. Participants were N=34 transracially adopted Korean American youths (TAKAs) living with White American parents in the U.S.; most were adopted into families within a few months of age. Korean heritage students living with their biological parents with differing degrees of acculturation to American culture--50 Korean Americans (KAs) and 50 South Koreans (SKs)--served as control groups. These comparisons enabled a better and more nuanced understanding of the uniqueness of the transracial adoptee experience and captured the distinctive narratives that characterized each group's experience. In accordance with the resilience framework, three different components were analyzed—their adversity (stress and life change), their protective factors (family practices), and their developmental outcome (psychological well-being). In navigating life challenges, all 3 groups felt that current issues related to their school academics/peers and future education/job were their greatest concerns, especially for SKs who had the highest levels of stress. But TAKAs and SKs experienced significantly more and higher levels of life change than KAs, with 1 to 2 more life events on average during the past year. The influence of family protective factors (i.e., cohesion, expressiveness, conflict, organization, and control) were examined though mediation analysis. Findings indicated that for TAKAs, family conflict fully mediated the relationship between stress perceptions and flourishing. Similarly, family cohesion partially mediated the relationship between stress perceptions and basic needs satisfaction. Both a sense of family support and togetherness and a family's open expression of anger and conflict, in other words, were critical to understanding how Korean heritage students thrive in the face of adversity. Qualitative results from follow-up interviews suggested that one particular factor that may influence TAKAs' family cohesion and conflict is the issue of navigating ethnic identity development within the family context. Most adoptee informants grew up in predominantly White neighborhoods and did not take ownership over their identity exploration until later in life after their first, extended cultural exposure or when they enrolled in college and came into contact with other multi-ethnic peers. While only three out of nine interviewees indicated that their parents were not huge cultural agents, six believed that either parents actively supported their cultural experiences or that adoptee camps played a significant role in their cultural learning. Still, some adoptees indicated the strong potential that their struggles with their ethnic identity development had to either divide or unite their relationship with their parents. In both the best and worst experiences with parents' cultural socialization, informants described various relational challenges they had to overcome. These included coping with resentment against their parents for not providing sufficient cultural support and their parents not being able to empathize with their feelings of cultural and/or social marginalization, for example. Cultural identity conflict was perceived as a prominent issue that transracial adoptees had to navigate all their lives, and was likened by one interviewee to the process of trying to put together a 1,000 piece puzzle with only 900 pieces. Furthermore, KA and SK interviewees found that their parents often played gendered roles within the family. Some informants felt that while their mothers were more involved with family life, fathers were not a strong presence in their lives, and sometimes were even negative. While half of the KAs referenced "tiger parenting, " contrary to popular stereotypes, none believe that it was a comprehensive picture of their parents' rearing styles. Some SK participants, however, expressed their desires for their parents to support them simply by listening to and trying to understand them. Finally, quantitative results on the TAKAs' psychological well-being demonstrate that they are resilient and have significantly higher levels of flourishing and competence basic needs satisfaction. TAKAs' psychological resilience suggest the importance of protective factors within the family in fostering their flourishing. No significant differences, however, were found in their levels of relational harmony, nor their relational basic needs satisfaction. Study findings have important implications for various stakeholders who seek to cultivate a healthy living environment for society's children in multicultural contexts (i.e., foster children and orphans). In addition to providing a positive family model that fosters psychological resilience, findings implicate the importance of considering family practices like family cohesion and conflict in preparing the large number of White parents who are adopting Asian and other transracial children. Furthermore, results re-establish the importance of parents in their children's ethnic identity development beginning from their early years during their childhood all the way through their later years in adolescence.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Lee, Diane Sookyoung
|Stanford University, Graduate School of Education.
|Padilla, Amado M
|Padilla, Amado M
|Krumboltz, John D
|LaFromboise, Teresa Davis
|Krumboltz, John D
|LaFromboise, Teresa Davis
|Statement of responsibility
|Diane Sookyoung Lee.
|Submitted to the Graduate School of Education.
|Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2014.
- © 2014 by Diane Sookyoung Lee
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