Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

West Meets East: Americans Adopt Chinese Children

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

West Meets East: Americans Adopt Chinese Children

Article excerpt

West Meets East: Americans Adopt Chinese Children. Richard Tessler, Gail Gamache, & Liming Liu. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey. 1999. 189 pp. ISBN 0-8978-9658-0. $55.00 cloth, $18.95 paper.

Americans adopting children internationally is not a new phenomenon. However, it has become more popular over the years as a result of the shortage of infants available for adoption in the United States. Tessler, Gamache, and Liu choose to focus primarily on bicultural socialization, though they do address the adoption process and the social context that has contributed to international adoption. Incorporating definitions of bicultural socialization from other scholars, their definition can be summarized simply as the learning of the cultural heritage of two ethnic groups. How is bicultural socialization accomplished by these parents? As one might expect, there is variation in how adoptive parents socialize their Chinese-born children. The authors identify four approaches: assimilation, acculturation, alternation, and what they term child choice. The respondents were asked to report their perceptions of the importance of 32 indicators of Chinese socialization and 32 indicators of American socialization. Overall, the average scores for both scales fell between somewhat important and a little important though these parents considered indicators of American socialization to be statistically significantly more important.

One concern regarding international and interracial-ethnic adoption is the fact that, in many cases, there are obvious physical differences between the adoptive child and adoptive parents, creating a debate over the appropriateness of these practices. The essence of this debate suggests that adoptive parents cannot instill in their racially or ethnically different adopted child the means necessary to grow up with a sense of pride in his or her heritage, a healthy racial-ethnic identity, and the wherewithal to cope with discrimination. There is a literature suggesting that some children adopted interracially-ethnic ally do experience problems. The practice of bicultural socialization represents a partial solution to these potential problems. The authors point out that many adoption agencies take steps to educate American adoptive families who adopt non-American children about these issues. What approach do these parents take? Regarding the actual process and content of bicultural socialization, the authors evince that the parents emphasize celebrating Chinese cultural events and more obvious elements of Chinese culture (food, language) rather than instilling traditional Chinese cultural values and beliefs (i.e., hierarchical family structure, modesty, etc.)

The chapter on public reactions to international adoption is a very relevant inclusion. The literature on interracial-ethnic adoption cites problems with comments adoptive parents receive from others regarding their adoption plan. As one might expect, passing comments from strangers, friends, family, and so forth may reflect on the obvious physical differences between adoptive parents and their child. …

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