Academic journal article Family Relations

U.S. Families' Adoption of Chinese Daughters: A Narrative Analysis of Family Themes in Children's Books

Academic journal article Family Relations

U.S. Families' Adoption of Chinese Daughters: A Narrative Analysis of Family Themes in Children's Books

Article excerpt

The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the ways in which family formation processes were presented in international children's adoption books. Guided by Pinderhughes' (1996) adoptive family development model, we conducted a content analysis for the representation of two developmental phases (anticipation and accommodation). A total of 24 publicly accessible booh (e.g., via libraries, websites, or bookstores) were coded independently by two researchers. The results indicated that adoptive developmental tasks were represented in the books. The books were transparent in the description of positively and negatively valenced events (e.g., adoptive children are withdrawn from new parents). Implications for practice and service provision and research are offered.

Key Words: adoption, child-parent relationships, cultural and ethnic minority family issues, narrative, qualitative studies in the areas of families.

International adoption is one way in which biethnic/multiethnic families are created (Vonk, 2001). According to the U.S. Department of State (201 1), more children were adopted from China (than any other country) in 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2010. This adoption trend was influenced by China's family policy. During the latter part of the 20th century, China instituted a policy that severely limited families' capacities to have more than one child. Given the preference for males (over females) in traditional Chinese culture, this policy had a significant impact on family formation and adoption choices (e.g., Chen, 1985). Families were less willing to keep daughters if these girls (a) were their first child or (b) born after families already had sons (Ebenstein, 2010). Rather, girls often became available for adoption. Adoption by U.S. families became quite common (Ponte, Wang, & Fan, 2010; Suter, 2008).

As these adopted daughters move from infancy into early childhood, they will develop an emerging sense of self. This emergence might include awareness that their families are different from other monoethnic families that they see (e.g., Ponte et al., 2010). If families already have children prior to an adoption, then these children (adoptive siblings) might have similar curiosities about family changes that will occur. Similar to other families that receive ambiguous or negative social reactions (e.g., Baumann, 2000; Parra-Cardona, ßulock, Irnig, Villarruel, & Gold, 2006), parents assume the responsibility for determining how to address family issues with their children. Thus, parents might seek resources to help them address family formation processes for adoptees and siblings.

One common resource might be young reader books that can be read and shared with children. Indeed, parents might be more likely to utilize books than other resources (e.g., classes, counseling) to address family issues (Coleman & Nickleberry, 2009). Under these circumstances, it might be useful for family professionals to examine the relational issues within such books. The present study examined representations of family formation processes within children's books about adoption of Chinese girls. Pinderhughes' (1996) adoptive family development theory was used as a conceptual framework for a content analysis of the books.

Adoptive Family Development Theory

According to family development theory, there is an order to the phases of family formation, growth, and maintenance (Duvall, 1988). Within each phase, families face specific developmental tasks that should be addressed. Families that manage these tasks successfully are likely to achieve wellness and have more resources for the next phase. Since its original inception, variations in family development theory have emerged (Laszloffy, 2002). Some colleagues have argued that there are specific developmental processes that are unique to certain family structures (Ceballo, Lansford, Abbey, & Stewart, 2004). Such processes might not easily fit or are invisible in the original theory. …

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