Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 1428–1439 | Cite as

Parents’ Understanding of Adopted Children’s Ways of Being, Belonging, and Becoming

  • Waganesh A. Zeleke
  • Lynne S. Koester
  • Gabriella Lock
Original Paper


Internationally-adopted children experience a range of challenges as they cope with the demands of everyday functioning and strive to develop a healthy identity. Research shows that family context such as parenting practices impact the level of adoptees' adjustment and their eventual identity development. In this study, we examined the process of how relationships are built between Ethiopia adoptees and their adoptive families within the new family setting. Using data obtained through semi-structured interviews, a brief survey, and focus group discussion from 25 North American families who adopted 35 Ethiopia children, we conducted a systematic content analysis to examine parents' way of being, way of understanding, and way of intervening. Based on results of this study, we provide a framework that explains the dynamic of Ethiopian adoptees' existence and belonging from pre- to post-adoption in the adoptive family. Implications for future research regarding the need for multiculturally competent parenting practices and family level strategies to reduce barriers to the child and parent relationship are addressed.


International adoption Adoptive parenting Adoptee identity development Way of being Transnational adoptive childhood Ethiopian adoptees 


Author Contributions

W.A.Z.: designed and executed the study, collect the data and assisted with the data analyses, and wrote the paper. L.S.K.L.: collaborated with the design and writing of the study. G.L.: helps on analyzed the data and wrote part of the results. W.A.Z. and G.L.: collaborated with the writing of the study. L.S.K.: collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The lead author, Waganesh Zeleke, has received research grants from the vice president for Research and Creative Scholarship of the University of Montanahe. The remaining authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Institutional Review Board approval from University of Montana was obtained prior to all data collection.

Informed Consent

Participation was voluntary and written informed consent was obtained from all the participants. Informants were informed about the purpose of the study and they were informed that they could withdraw at any time from the study and cease responding to any question they felt uncomfortable. Information obtained from all the participants was anonymized and confidentiality was assured throughout the data collection process.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Counseling, Psychology and Special Needs EducationDuquesne UniversityPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.University of MontanaMissoulaUSA

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