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Durham e-Theses
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What makes adoptive family life work? Adoptive parents’ narratives of the making and remaking of adoptive kinship

Jones, Christine A. (2009) What makes adoptive family life work? Adoptive parents’ narratives of the making and remaking of adoptive kinship. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



Adoption theory, policy and practice have undergone considerable change in the period between the introduction of the Adoption Act (1976) and the Adoption and Children Act (2002). In this period, in particular, adoption has increasingly come to be understood within the context of an ethic of 'openness'. This has had implications for the day to day lives of members of the adoption triad, that is, adoptive parents, adoptees and birth family members, and their attempts to 'make adoption work’ across their lifecourse. The thesis draws on theories of family and kinship in order to develop understandings of day to day family practices that emerge in adoptive families and the way these shape and are shaped by adoption discourse. The thesis provides an analysis of local and national statistical data and the biographical accounts of twenty two adoptive parents who had children placed with them between 1977 and 2001. These were all domestic 'stranger' adoptions. From the adopters’ narratives it was apparent that the core and ongoing challenge facing adoptive parents was to find a unique way of 'doing' adoptive family life which acknowledged the importance both of biological ties and legal kinship. This was the ease regardless of the year of the adoption and continues to challenge these families today. The thesis explores the tasks which flow from this core challenge, that is, developing and maintaining family relationships between adopters and adoptees where none previously existed, finding a place for birth relatives within the adoptive kinship model and developing a positive identity as a non conventional family. The thesis challenges the conceptualisation of adoptive relations as 'fictive kinship' and biological connectedness as 'real' kinship and presents evidence of the fragility of both the biological family and the adoptive family where there has been a legal adoption of a child. At the same time the thesis reveals the ability of both biological and adoptive family ties to endure over time despite cultural barriers. The study also reveals that existing typologies of adoption as 'confidential', 'mediated' and 'fully disclosed' fail to capture the complexity of adoptive family life. A new definition of both adoptive kinship and 'openness' in adoption are developed and the implications of these redefinitions for adoption policy and practice are explored

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2009
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Sep 2011 18:24

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