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Chatting Online With My Other Mother: Adoptive family views and experiences of the use of traditional and technological forms of post-adoption contact

GREENHOW, SARAH,KATHRYN (2015) Chatting Online With My Other Mother: Adoptive family views and experiences of the use of traditional and technological forms of post-adoption contact. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



Adoption practice has experienced a shift to ‘openness’ since the 1970s which recognises the importance of the adopted child’s connection to their adoptive and birth families. Traditionally, openness includes communication between adopters and their children about adoption and birth family history, and/or direct (face-to-face) or indirect (letterbox) contact between adoptive and birth families with the support and mediation of social workers. However, a new form of technologically mediated contact has emerged that challenges these categories. ‘Virtual contact’ encompasses a range of post-adoption contact activities, including communication through social networking sites (SNS) (such as Facebook), texting and instant messaging via mobile technologies and emailing between adopted children and birth relatives. Given the seeming ubiquity of these modes of communication in today’s society, particularly among young people, there is a feeling of inevitability surrounding virtual contact raising deep concerns for families and adoption practitioners. There is currently little published empirical research addressing this practice issue within adoption. This study explores the impact of communicative technologies on the practice and experience of openness in adoptive families today. An online survey of 101 adoptive parents was conducted, followed by interviews with 10 adoptive parents who had not experienced virtual contact and interviews with 13 adoptive parents and 6 adopted young people who had experienced virtual contact. Survey data revealed a new set of technological practices that are emerging, namely that a large proportion of adoptive parents had searched online themselves for their child’s birth relatives (63%) and a minority (9%) reported virtual contact in their families, with mixed experiences. A mixed thematic and interpretative phenomenological analysis of interviews highlighted that, traditional methods of contact remain an important feature of openness although complexities are evident. Virtual contact offered some families an alternative method of connection with benefits such as fulfilling adoptee identity needs and creating more personal, family relationships. However, risks existed including the unmediated nature of virtual contact and inappropriate behaviour of birth relatives. The experience of virtual contact was influenced by the characteristics of the adoptive family and individuals in it, the existing relationships between the adoptive and birth family, and the existence of additional challenges within the adoptive family. Findings suggest that empirical lessons learned in relation to traditional methods can lay foundations for the development of good practice concerning technological methods.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Post-adoption contact, technology
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Applied Social Sciences, School of
Thesis Date:2015
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:11 Sep 2015 11:10

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