, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 133-164

A Typical American Family? How Adoptive Families Acknowledge and Incorporate Chinese Cultural Heritage in their Lives

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Abstract

When a child from China is adopted by U.S. parents, the adoptive family must address questions about if, when, how, and how much to acknowledge the birth cultural heritage of their child. This paper addresses these concerns by presenting findings of a study that examined ways families address the myriad issues surrounding cultural heritage. Drawing on work by H. David Kirk, D. M. Brodzinsky (Brodzinsky, Schechter, & Henig, 1992. Being adopted: The lifelong search for self. New York: Anchor Books), and others, a conceptual framework is presented to aid in understanding the dynamics involved in emphasizing (or de-emphasizing) cultural heritage Second, results of a web-based survey that extends the results of earlier work on cultural heritage in families with children adopted from China (Rojewski & Rojewski, 2001. Intercountry adoption from China: Examining cultural-heritage and other post-adoption issues. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey) are presented. Specific findings reveal the range of actions taken by adoptive parents on (a) how families cope with family-child differences, (b) how families acknowledge the child’s birth culture and heritage (e.g., acknowledging birth cultural heritage and culturally-related events, having contact with other Chinese children and adults), and (c) the perceived benefits and importance of incorporating Chinese cultural heritage into family life. Results add to an emerging baseline for understanding the range of responses adoptive families have to address issues of Chinese heritage, as well as trends in the reasoning parents use when deciding about cultural heritage-related issues.