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‘Race isn't what defines me’: exploring identity choices in transracial, biracial, and monoracial families

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Transracial adoption [TRA], particularly the adoption of black children by white parents, has been a controversial issue in the United States for more than half a century. Much of the criticism surrounding transracial adoption has dealt with concerns that black children raised in white homes will fail to develop a positive black identity. Such critiques are often based on assumptions about the identity of black children raised by their biological parents, yet studies of transracial adoption rarely address identity development struggles experienced by black children raised in black homes. Moreover, while the race of parents in relation to children is at the center of the transracial adoption debate, TRA studies rarely delve into socialization practices of biracial families headed by one white and one black parent. This study addresses a void in the literature by examining the experiences of young black adults whose parents may or may not be of the same race. The impact of varying racialized family structures on black identity development is examined by comparing the experiences of young black adults raised in families with two black parents (monoracial), one white and one black parent (biracial), and two white parents (transracial). Drawing from 32 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with middle-class young black adults between the ages of 18 and 30 years old, findings indicate that all informants, regardless of racialized family structure, approach racial identity development similarly by de-emphasizing the ascribed status of race in favor of achieved statuses as part of the identity construction process.
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Keywords: black identity; black middle-class; racial socialization; transracial adoption

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Sociology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2011

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