"I'm Learning Not to Tell You": Korean Transracial Adoptees' Appraisals of Parental Racial Socialization Strategies and Perceived Effects

Doris F. Chang, Kalli Feldman, Hailey Easley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Although studies generally find that transracially adopted children who are socialized in their birth or ethnic culture report higher levels of psychological well-being, studies of racial socialization report conflicting results (Boivin & Hassan, 2015). These inconsistencies highlight the complexity and distinctiveness of racial socialization processes and the need to better understand how parental messages about racial diversity and racism are experienced across developmental periods. Drawing on constructivist and poststructuralist paradigms, 8 focus groups explored the racial socialization narratives of 34 Korean American transracially adopted adults raised by White parents. The aims were to explore subjective experiences of parental racial socialization strategies and their perceived effect on identity development and other key areas of functioning. Analysis of focus group transcripts was informed by grounded theory and narrative frameworks. Parent socialization strategies were classified as avoidant (color-blind or passive/child-choice), ambivalent, or engaged (active/ child-focused or participatory/multicultural family). Avoidant and ambivalent approaches were most common and reinforced by participants' own desire for racial sameness in childhood. As participants traversed middle childhood and adolescence, they increasingly viewed avoidant and ambivalent parents as vulnerable, biased, and ill equipped to handle the racial realities of their lives. The perceived fragility of these parents led participants to suppress stories of racial marginalization and oppression, created distance in the relationship, impeded the process of identity exploration, and left them unprepared to cope with racist events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)308-322
Number of pages15
JournalAsian American Journal of Psychology
Volume8
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2017

Keywords

  • Korean adoptees
  • identity
  • racial socialization
  • transracial adoption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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