The Effects of Race, Religion, and Religiosity on Attitudes towards Transracial Adoption

Article excerpt


Race scholars have argued that attitudes towards interracial dating and marriage may serve as a barometer for race relations in the United States (Gordon, 1964; Johnson & Jacobson, 2005; Yancey, 2002). Members of different racial groups will be more willing to engage in dating and marriage relationships as social distance between the groups lessens (Yancey, 2002). Similarly, one might expect that as social distance between racial groups diminishes, attitudes towards adopting children of different races would also become more favorable. Correspondingly, it seems reasonable to conclude that attitudes towards transracial adoption-i.e., the legal adoption of children by parents of another race-may also serve as an indicator for contemporary race relations in a society.

A vast majority of the work on transracial adoption (hereafter TRA) has centered on the adoption of Black children by White parents (Bausch & Serpe, 1997; Fenster, 2002; Yancey & Lewis, 2009). This research has focused primarily on the positive or negative outcomes of TRA for children (Courtney, 1997; McRoy & Zurcher, 1983; Simon & Altstein, 1987; Simon, 1996) or the characteristics of those who transracially adopt (Bonham, 1977; Falk, 1970; Grow & Shapiro, 1974; Hollingsworth, 2000a). Comparatively little work has been done on what social factors predict general attitudes towards TRA. Some studies have examined the perspectives of African Americans (Howard, Royse, & Skerl, 1977; Simon, 1978), Mexican Americans (Bausch & Serpe, 1997), social workers (Carter-Black, 2002; Fenster, 2002, 2003, 2004; Grow & Shapiro, 1976), and college students (Chima, 1996; Whatley, Jahangardi, Ross, & Knox, 2003). Few studies have examined the correlates of attitudes towards TRA among the general population (Hollingsworth, 2000b).

Race relations scholars have at length investigated the relationship between religious beliefs and the racial attitudes of Americans (Airport, 1954; Edgell & Tranby, 2007; Emerson & Smith, 2000; Emerson, Smith, & Sikkink, 1999; Hunsberger, 1995; McConahay & Hough, 1976; Roof, 1974; Yancey, 2002, 2007). With few exceptions, research has substantiated a relationship between religious views and racial attitudes. In particular, a relationship has been shown to exist between religious views and attitudes towards interracial romantic and family relationships (cf. Yancey, 2002, 2007). More specific to this study, Fenster (2003) recently reported some significant correlation between religion and attitudes towards TRA among a national sample of social workers. Yet, to the author's knowledge, no national study has been conducted focusing primarily on the relationship between religion and attitudes towards TRA among the general public. This study then represents the first attempt at meeting this need.


A Brief Survey of the Transracial Adoption Controversy

The widespread practice of TRA in the United States began with the adoption of orphaned or abandoned Japanese and Korean children in the mid-1950s following WWII and the Korean War. In the 1960s, the legalization of abortion, increased availability of birth control, and a decline in stigma towards single mothers significantly reduced the number of White infants available for adoption (Curtis, 1996; McRoy & Zurcher, 1983). These factors, in combination with an increased tolerance for race-mixing following the Civil Rights Movement contributed to a greater number of Black children being adopted by White families (Carter-Black, 2002; Fenster, 2002). In 1972, the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) publicly decried the adoption of Black children by White families as a form of "cultural genocide." The NABSW argued that White parents could not provide a positive racial identity for Black children, nor could they adequately equip Black children with the coping skills necessary to succeed within a racist society. …