Department of Family Therapy Dissertations and Applied Clinical Projects

Date of Award

2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Family Therapy

Advisor

Michael D Reiter

Committee Member

Ronald J. Chenail

Committee Member

Tommie V. Boyd

Abstract

The story of adoption reunions is a story of many others. With the invention of the internet and DNA profiling websites, what was once impossible, or very difficult, is now as simple as submitting saliva to a DNA profiling company. This easier way to explore family backgrounds has created new experiences for adoptees. After a reunification, adoptees can reevaluate their identity with the new information to help develop a broader and deeper view of themselves (Henze-Pederson, 2019; Kiecolt & LoMascolo, 2003; Palmer, 2011; Schooler & Norris, 2002). In this study, I looked at how my adoptive identity changed after reunification with my birthmother through DNA profiling. There is a gap in the literature on non-transracial and non-transnational adoptees’ experiences of reunification through DNA profiling and the impact of this on the adoptee’s identity.

I used autoethnography to explore my own personal reactions during and after reunification and how these reactions shaped my identity as a person and an adoptee. Autoethnography allowed me to explore my own life-changing experience, how it contributed to my identity, and how it can provide insight for others that may go through or have gone through similar experiences. This process showed me that reunification with my birth mother helped solidify my identity rather than change my identity. What stood out most to me was the sense of recursion and the connection between myself pre and post reunification. I was able to understand what factors, both internal and external, contributed to my sense of identity. This study helps others to look at the larger picture of adoption, reunification, and identity. For those who may have similar experiences or work with people who have similar experiences, such as family therapists, social workers, and counselors, this study contributes to the development of empathy and understanding with this new type of phenomenon.

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