Samuel Vladimir Highland, Psy.D., is a 2021 graduate of the Psy.D. Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

  • Martha B. Straus, PhD, Committee Chair
  • Susan Hawes, PhD, Committee Member
  • Gina Pasquale, PsyD, Committee Member


international adoption, institutional care, orphanage, adoptive identity theory

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It is well established that, while all orphanages are not equally harsh, none can provide the quality of care found in most homes. The depriving circumstances of many such institutions often leads to lingering delays across social, emotional, cognitive, psychological, and physical domains of development. However, for many international adoptees there is evidence of resilience and catch-up growth across these same domains following adoption. Adoptive identity theory provides the framework for this qualitative exploration assessing the degree of coherence among six previously-institutionalized (PI) international adoptees’ narratives about the meaning and role of adoption in their lives as emerging adults. Adoptive identity theory has been applied to domestic adoptions; the model successfully predicts adopted adolescents’ psychological adjustment as emerging adults. This dissertation addresses a knowledge gap, looking at the applicability of adoptive identity theory as it relates to international adoptees who have lived in an orphanage. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used to examine participants’ individual perspectives on the impact of beginning life in an orphanage on their post-adoption life. Four super-ordinate clusters emerged from the interview data: (a) Missing Pieces of the Adoption Story, (b) Influential People in an International Adoptees’ Life, (c) Complexities Faced by International Adoptees, and (d) The Meaning of Shared Culture, Family, and Friends for International Adoptees. The results are discussed in conjunction with the existing adoption literature with the intention of informing clinical practice with this population.


Samuel Vladimir Highland

ORCID Scholar ID# 0000-0003-2747-1075