Start Date

13-5-2016 8:00 AM

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Transracially adopted children often experience challenges in the development of identity. Researchers have found that people of minority race often go through a period of questioning ethnic identity (Phinney, 1990); however, little research has been conducted in similar development among adopted children. Growing up as a minority both in ethnic and adoptive status, transracial adoptees may face many obstacles in developing a healthy identity. Specifically, children may experience developmental setback frequently in the form of microaggressions. Microaggressions, regardless of intent, attribute stereotypical qualities to the recipients and invalidate individual differences between group members. Internalization of these messages at an early age may imply that the child has accepted these messages to be true. Adoption is a multi-faceted process- involving many people, concepts, and emotions- that many parents strive to help their adopted children understand. In early cognitive-developmental years, children themselves may convey several micro-aggressions due to the lack of conceptual understanding of their racial and adoptive identity. Beginning with the utilization of adoption language, children develop an understanding of adoption that grows with age (Brodzinsky, 2014). The present study intends to examine and interpret the different types of microaggressions internalized and committed by children of different ages by examining transracial adoptees aged 5-11 from China (N=8). Child interviews were coded for adoption and racial microaggressions experienced by the child. Microaggressions were further coded for who committed and who experienced them. Analyses were conducted on those that were committed and internalized by the child. Participants were analyzed in terms of Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, including preoperational children ages 5-7 (N=3) and concrete-operational children ages 8-11 (N=5). Preliminary analyses found that transracial adoptees of both age groups tend to internalize and commit microaggressions more frequently than they experience them from others. Of the microaggressions committed, most are adoption-related rather than racial. These trends support Brodzinsky’s findings that young children have difficulty conceptually understanding adoption, perhaps indicating a need to increase education and promotion of a healthy adoption identity. Concrete-Operational children committed more microaggressions than their preoperational counterparts, mostly falling under “biology is best/normative” and “phantom birth parent” codes. At this stage in life, adoptees become aware of the importance of heredity and biology in family dynamics, yet fail to employ abstract thinking that would allow them to consider the perspective and importance of the birth parent. Further studies of a larger sample size, including a wider range of developmental ages may corroborate these results as well as find a decrease in number of internalized microaggressions among older children. By studying the prevalence and types of microaggressions committed by transracial adoptees, we may be able to better understand how children comprehend adoption, and possibly develop interventions to increase age-appropriate education and promote healthy identity development.

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May 13th, 8:00 AM

The Role of Developmental Comprehension in Understanding Microaggressions in Transracially-Adopted Children

Transracially adopted children often experience challenges in the development of identity. Researchers have found that people of minority race often go through a period of questioning ethnic identity (Phinney, 1990); however, little research has been conducted in similar development among adopted children. Growing up as a minority both in ethnic and adoptive status, transracial adoptees may face many obstacles in developing a healthy identity. Specifically, children may experience developmental setback frequently in the form of microaggressions. Microaggressions, regardless of intent, attribute stereotypical qualities to the recipients and invalidate individual differences between group members. Internalization of these messages at an early age may imply that the child has accepted these messages to be true. Adoption is a multi-faceted process- involving many people, concepts, and emotions- that many parents strive to help their adopted children understand. In early cognitive-developmental years, children themselves may convey several micro-aggressions due to the lack of conceptual understanding of their racial and adoptive identity. Beginning with the utilization of adoption language, children develop an understanding of adoption that grows with age (Brodzinsky, 2014). The present study intends to examine and interpret the different types of microaggressions internalized and committed by children of different ages by examining transracial adoptees aged 5-11 from China (N=8). Child interviews were coded for adoption and racial microaggressions experienced by the child. Microaggressions were further coded for who committed and who experienced them. Analyses were conducted on those that were committed and internalized by the child. Participants were analyzed in terms of Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, including preoperational children ages 5-7 (N=3) and concrete-operational children ages 8-11 (N=5). Preliminary analyses found that transracial adoptees of both age groups tend to internalize and commit microaggressions more frequently than they experience them from others. Of the microaggressions committed, most are adoption-related rather than racial. These trends support Brodzinsky’s findings that young children have difficulty conceptually understanding adoption, perhaps indicating a need to increase education and promotion of a healthy adoption identity. Concrete-Operational children committed more microaggressions than their preoperational counterparts, mostly falling under “biology is best/normative” and “phantom birth parent” codes. At this stage in life, adoptees become aware of the importance of heredity and biology in family dynamics, yet fail to employ abstract thinking that would allow them to consider the perspective and importance of the birth parent. Further studies of a larger sample size, including a wider range of developmental ages may corroborate these results as well as find a decrease in number of internalized microaggressions among older children. By studying the prevalence and types of microaggressions committed by transracial adoptees, we may be able to better understand how children comprehend adoption, and possibly develop interventions to increase age-appropriate education and promote healthy identity development.