Karmen R. Smith, Ph.D., is a 2022 graduate of the PhD Program in Marriage and Family Therapy at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

  • Kevin Lyness, PhD, Committee Chair
  • Justine D’Arrigo, PhD, Committee Member
  • Walter Lowe, PhD, Committee Member


transracial adoption, cultural socialization, identity development, bicultural, parenting

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The voices of the families that have successfully raised transracially adopted children with a positive cultural identity are missing from the literature: “Further research is needed on adoption from the perspective of the adoptee” (Clark et al., 2006, p. 192). There are methodological shortcomings that inhibit our ability to definitively determine adjustment outcomes for this population. Such shortcomings, combined with a failure to address additional variables that influence outcomes, have left identified gaps in the research unaddressed. The purpose of this grounded theory study is to identify the cultural socialization behaviors that contributed to the development of the participant’s positive bicultural identity. Data was collected from 3 African American transracial adoptees. Six themes on the experience of transracial adoption and the development of a positive bicultural identity emerged from the data: Representation Matters; Put Up or Shut Up; They Ain’t Ready; We All Family Here; We are the Bridge, and Stuck Between Two Worlds; Part of Both, Claimed by Neither. Additionally, the presence of these 6 themes appears to be describing an integrated and reciprocally recursive process of development towards a positive bicultural identity, with connections to critical areas of cultural competence for transracial adoptive parenting. The reported socialization behaviors that serve as manifestations of racial awareness, multicultural planning, and survival skills and contributions to the emergent themes are presented in the following constructed themes: Ancillary Supports, Extracurricular Activities, Open Dialogue, Application of Cultural Awareness in Parenting, and Literature and Films.


Karmen R. Smith

ORCID Scholar ID# 0000-0003-2649-6940