Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation


College of Social Work


Social Work

First Advisor

Arlene B Andrews, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

DeAnne K Messias, Ph.D.


Limited research is available about the impact of transnational, transracial adoption on the developing child and across the life span. In order to expand and illuminate the adopted woman's story and perspective, this qualitative study explored the life stories of 20 women of color between the ages of 25-38 who were transnationally adopted as children before the age of three by white parents to the United States from eight different countries of origin across the Americas and Asia. Historical and cultural legacies often provide a foundation for self-esteem and a mirror for self-reflection in the process of forming an autobiographical narrative in childhood and across the life span. These stories have a powerful way of shaping a person's worldview and identity.

This study utilized the autobiographical narrative to explore and compare how women in young adulthood who were transnationally and transracially adopted regarded their identity formation through examination of the narratives embedded within their life story. The results of the study, utilizing a narrative interpretative lens, demonstrate tremendous diversity and fluidity in their identity journeys. Across these twenty life stories, four reoccurring themes emerged in profound and unique ways: difference, how being different shaped them; connections, how family and relationships influenced their hopes and dreams; identities, finding and revising who they were and could become; and the journey, gaining perspective and making meaning out of their life experiences. Beyond experiences of vulnerability, loss and challenge; each woman interviewed and every story shared demonstrated the human spirit could emerge strong, beautiful and resilient.