Adoptive Families in a Diverse Society

By Katarina Wegar | Go to book overview

7
Adoptive Fatherhood
Gender, Identity, and Sociocultural Considerations

RAMON HINOJOSA, MELANIE SBERNA, AND WILLIAM MARSIGLIO

Men develop identities as fathers in various familial contexts; some formally adopt children with whom they have no biological ties. The process of adoptive father identity formation has received little attention in the fatherhood literature although it is relevant to an important segment of the growing diversity of families in the United States. Drawing selectively on the existing body of fatherhood literature, we draw parallels to and offer theoretical insights for the process of adoptive father identity formation. We provide researchers a point of departure for future empirical work on this unique path to fatherhood.

We view adoptive fatherhood through a social psychological and gendered lens, informed by the fatherhood, masculinities, and adoption literatures. Adoptive fatherhood involves intrapsychic and social processes men experience when expressing their fathering self as well as the social structures and cultural scripts encountered when constructing an adoptive fathering identity. At the individual level, we conceptualize adoptive father identity as a set of processes involving men’s (and others’) interpretations of cultural and gendered prescriptions about fathering that are interpersonally negotiated.

In American society, the dominant cultural image of the family is the nuclear, middle-class family with parents who are biologically related to their children. However, recent demographic patterns paint a different picture, with evidence of a change toward more diverse family forms and a gradual attitudinal shift placing more value on the social aspects of family relationships and less on biological connections. Decreased social pressure to have children after marriage along with shifting attitudes about and the growth of nontraditional family forms belie the cultural potency of the biologically related nuclear family imagery.1

Researchers have chronicled how men’s family roles and men’s masculine identity influence self-perceptions and the role of self-perceptions in social

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