© 2016

Global Families, Inequality and Transnational Adoption

The De-Kinning of First Mothers


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiii
  2. Riitta Högbacka
    Pages 1-31
  3. Riitta Högbacka
    Pages 119-153
  4. Riitta Högbacka
    Pages 181-213
  5. Riitta Högbacka
    Pages 215-230
  6. Riitta Högbacka
    Pages 231-244
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 245-282

About this book


This book looks at the simultaneous processes of making and un-making of families that are part of the adoption practice. Whereas most studies on transnational adoption concentrate on the adoptive family, the author identifies not only the happy occasion when a family gains a child, but also the sorrow and loss of the child to its family of origin. Situating transnational adoption in the context of the Global North-South divide, Högbacka investigates the devastating effects of unequal life chances and asymmetrical power relations on the adoption process and on the mothers whose children are adopted.

Based on unique primary material gathered in in-depth interviews with South African families of origin and Finnish adoptive families, the book investigates the decision-making processes of both sets of parents and the encounters between them. The first mothers’ narratives are juxtaposed with those of the adopters and of the adoption social workers who act on the principles of the wider adoption system. Concluding with a critique of the Global Northism that exemplifies current practices, Högbacka sketches the contours of a more just approach to transnational adoption that would shatter rather than perpetuate inequality. The book can also be read as an exposé of the consequences of current inequalities for poor families.

Global Families, Inequality and Transnational Adoption will be of interest to students and scholars of adoption studies, family and kinship, sociology, anthropology, social work and development.



childhood children birthmothers adoptive parents Finland South Africa inequality globalisation Global South Global north Europe adoption family social science sociology

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University of HelsinkiFinland

About the authors

Riitta Högbacka is Lecturer in the Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki, Finland.

Bibliographic information


Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2017

“Global Families, Inequality and Transnational Adoption certainly represents a valuable contribution to the literature on transnational adoption, but in its methodology and framing, also offer insights into the workings of adoption more broadly.” (Derek Kirton, Critical Social Policy, Vol. 38 (2), 2018)

“This well-written, informative book reports the author’s comprehensive examination of the experienced joys and challenges of transnational adoption. ... Högbacka creates one of the most authentic analyses of the dynamics of international adoption ever written. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries.” (J. C. Altman, Choice, Vol. 55 (2), October, 2017)