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Robert Steele; Patricia Rodriguez Mosquera; Lisa Dierker




In the context of ethnic identity, Chinese and Korean adoptees with White, American families are an understudied population. Yet this group is of interest given their unique cultural positioning in relation to America, China or Korea, and Asian America. In this study, 20 Chinese and Korean adoptees (17 women, 3 men; 17 Chinese, 3 Korean; 20-25 years) were interviewed in a semi-structured format to gauge their experiences exploring, defining, and expressing their ethnic identity. Findings indicated that while there were some universals among adoptees such as a) parents that discussed racism in an indirect and reactionary way, b) being given opportunities to learn about their birth culture, c) thinking that returning to China or Korea was a valuable experience, and d) viewing their ethnic identity as enriching, experiences, opinions, and attitudes varied considerably. Despite this variation, adoptees have a distinct experience from White Americans, Chinese or Koreans, and Asian Americans because they are Asians brought up by White, American parents and negotiate their relationship with their birth country while lacking direct cultural ties. As a result, they explore and express their identity in a variety of ways that involve social exposure as well as more formal, educational settings. Future research will track how ethnic identity, exploration, and expression may shift as adoptees pass through later developmental stages.

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