sociology Adoption_in_the_United_States_A_Critical.pdf - Adoption in the United States A Critical Synthesis of Literature and Directions for

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Adoption in the United States: A Critical Synthesis of Literature and Directions for Sociological Research Samuel L. Perry **Please cite as: Perry, Samuel L. 2013. “Adoption in the United States: A Critical Synthesis of Literature and Directions for Sociological Research.” Unpublished Manuscript. doi: 10.13140/RG.2.2.12929.25448/1 Introduction Adoption 1 is arguably the most neglected family relationship in the sociology of the family. To be sure, there is no shortage of academic books and articles written on adoption (for reviews, see Fisher 2003; Lee 2003; Palacios and Brodzinsky 2010). However, sociologists have historically been content to surrender the topic of adoption to researchers in social work, psychology, history, and mental health. This tendency is unmistakably apparent in the nearly- complete absence of articles on the topic of adoption (or foster care) in the flagship sociological journals. 2 For example, since 1980, the American Sociological Review has published 1 article on adoptive parents (Hamilton, Cheng, and Powell 2007) and the American Journal of Sociology published 1 article on Korean adoptees (Shaio and Tuan 2008). 3 Even a brief perusal of publications on some aspect of adoption within the Journal of Marriage and Family reveals that most of these articles are written, not by sociologists, but by scholars in social work, psychology, or family science departments (for an exception, see Smock and Greenland 2010). Given the large (and growing 4 ) number of American individuals and families whom adoption impacts; the welter of political and social controversy that has historically surrounded the practice; the implications of adoption for contemporary social issues such as race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class; and its modern-day international scope; the dearth of sociological attention to this topic is shocking. 5 1 The term “adoption” refers to the severing of legal ties between biological parent and their minor child and the placement of that child into the guardianship of a non-biological parent. Non-biological parents may include blood relatives, stepparents, or “strangers” who are not related to the child apart from their legal status as parents. This last relationship has historically been termed “stranger - adoption” and tends to receive the most attention in the research literature (Fisher 2003; Melosh 2002). Th us, throughout this essay, any reference to “adoption” will mean “stranger adoption” unless otherwise indicated. 2 At the time of this writing, I await a draft of a forthcoming article in the Annual Review of Sociology , entitled “Somebody’s Children or Nobody’s Children? Sociological Perspectives on the Foster Care System,” by Christopher Wildeman and Jane Waldfogel (forthcoming). 3 Although a number of articles in each journal have included adoptive families in samples, these articles were not about adoption per se, but about other topics such as the relationship between genetic heritability and educational or socioeconomic outcomes.
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