The Influence of Discrepancies in Adolescent-Parent Perceptions of the Family on Adolescent Outcomes in Transracially Adoptive Families
Hrapczynski, Katie Marie
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Transracial adoption creates a family in which the adoptive parent or parents are of a different race, culture, or ethnicity than the child, most often Caucasian adoptive parents and racial minority children (Vandivere, Malm, & Radel, 2009). Concerns about the influence of the racial differences within the family on child development and the competency of white parents to successfully raise racial minority children have led to an examination of how the family environment facilitates adoptee development. One aspect of the family environment researchers have focused on is the extent to which adolescents' views of their family differ from their parents'. Transracial adoption provides a compelling familial context to explore the role of discrepancy in adolescent-parent perceptions of the family on adolescent development because not only do the age and familial role of the child and parent differ, but so do the biology and race. Guided by developmental theories (Duvall, 1977) and the Circumplex Model of Marital and Family Systems (Olson, Russell, & Sprenkle, 1979), this study examined the extent to which transracially adopted adolescents and their parents differ in their perceptions of family cohesion and conflict, and explored both the linear and curvilinear relationships between perceptual discrepancy and adolescent outcomes. The role of parental awareness of race was also investigated. The study utilized data collected as part of a national research study on transracial adoption. Seventy transracially adopted adolescents and one of their parents completed an online survey. Findings indicate transracially adopted adolescents and their parents tend to agree on the level of cohesion and conflict in their family. Moderate discrepancies in adolescent-parent perceptions of conflict were found to be related to higher adolescent self-esteem and less internalizing behaviors. However, adolescent development was not related to whether they and their parents had a shared perception of cohesion. The unique role of family cohesion in transracially adoptive families to counteract visible differences among members and solidify the family unit is discussed. Findings highlight the complexity of individuation in the context of transracial adoption, and present implications for adoption professionals, transracially adoptive families, and future investigation of adolescent development in transracial adoption.