Adoptees and adoptive families: an exploration of the formation of the legal family, the stigma of adoption, and the decision to search
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In this thesis I utilize sociological theories on deviance, published research on adoption, and surveys of 41 adoptees and 15 adoptive parents in order to address four primary questions:
1.What factors have influenced adoption historically, and continue to influence current practices? 2.In what ways does the legal system treat the adoptive family differently than the consanguine family? 3.Is there a stigma associated with adoption? 4.What factors are associated with adoptees' decision to search, or not to search, for their biological parents?
Adoption practices have been heavily influenced by the supply of and demand for children, and the stigma associated with illegitimacy, unwed motherhood, and infertility. Despite the fact that adoption legislation in most states creates the adoptive family "as if" it were a biological family, numerous examples of the differential treatment of adoptive and biological families are explored. From inheritance legislation to health insurance coverage, adoptees and adoptive families are often treated differently vis a vis non-adoptees and biological families.
The stigma associated with the varying triad members, birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees, is explored in the context of adoption as deviant. From the sometimes negative perception of adoptees and adoptive families, to the legally mandated differential treatment of these groups, a theory concerning the origin of adoption stigma and its perpetuation in society is offered. Interviews with adoptees support existing literature that suggests that significant life events,similarity of characteristics between the adoptee and his or her adoptive family, communication about adoption in the adoptive home, and the amount of information about the birth family are all factors that may motivate adoptees to seek out their biological relatives.
Sociological deviance theories are used to examine the many issues addressed in this thesis. A central and recurring point is that the legal institution of adoption is not as legitimate a method of family formation as is biological parenthood. Furthermore the adoptee and the adoptive parents may be subject to being labeled as deviant for their role within the triad.
- Masters Theses