Cultural Socialization in Transracial Adoption

Vonk, M. E., Lee, J., & Crolley-Simic, J. (2010). Cultural socialization practices in domestic and international transracial adoption. Adoption Quarterly, 13, 227-247.

Growing numbers of adoptions have been transracial and international. In previous research on transracial adoption, the use of cultural socialization practices was found to be positively correlated with children’s adjustment, sense of belongingness with parents, self-esteem, racial/ethnic identity development, and ability to cope with discrimination.  These practices may range from those that involve little contact with members of the birth culture, such as exposure to the culture through books, music, or food, to those that require integration with people of the child’s race/ethnicity, such as living in integrated neighborhoods or traveling to the birth culture.  Vonk, Lee, and Crolley-Simic analyzed data from the National Survey of Adoptive Parents to explore the nature and frequency of cultural socialization practices.  The participants were American parents and children in 438 domestic and 364 international transracial adoptions.  Results indicated that adoptive parents most often choose socialization practices that involve little or no integration with people of the child’s race/ethnicity.  In addition, less than half of all parents attended support groups, participated in post-adoption education, or used web-based post-adoption resources. Parents in the international adoption group (primarily with female, Asian children) used a wider variety of cultural socialization practices than those in the domestic adoption group (primarily with male, Latino/a and Black children).  Given the previously established link between cultural socialization and adjustment, the authors recommended that social workers help adoptive parents to become aware of the resources available to assist them in implementing cultural socialization practices.

Making Connections

Child rearing
Ethnic identity
Racial identity

Media Supplement

Mother and son, Judy and Aaron Stigger, discuss their experiences with transracial adoption in this NPR podcast . [7 min 46 sec]

Hear about the parenting dilemmas of transracial adoption in this NPR Talk of the Nation podcast . [37 min 45 sec]

Transracial adoption is explored in a series of three PBS POV videos, Adoption Stories. See the trailer here. [4 min 17 sec]