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UBC Theses and Dissertations

What is the lived experience of growing up in an adopted family? Lutz, Kevin Tyler


Research in the field of adoption typically looks at risk factors and statistical outcomes for adoptees and their families while relatively little research has examined the lived experience from the perspective of the adopted person. The primary purpose of this study was to elicit a “story” from the perspective of participants about their experiences of growing up with the knowledge that they are adopted, and examine qualitatively how their life unfolds, and what it means for them. Six participants were interviewed in an open format interview using each participant’s pre-prepared timeline as a guide for the interview. Interviews were audio recorded and subsequently transcribed. The narratives created were analyzed using the theoretical framework of descriptive phenomenology. From a content analysis, seven major and interrelated themes emerged: (1) Uniqueness – a felt sense of a qualitative difference from non-adoptees; (2) Connection – to others who share the experience of being adopted; (3) Vulnerability – to the possible content of the information they may come across if / when actualizing their curiosities; (4) Incompleteness – a feeling that there is missing information about their lives; (5) Acute or hyper awareness to similarities and differences with family members – the desire to share a genetic background or to look like someone; (6) Gratitude to / compassion for biological and adopted families; (7) Curiosity – about ones origins. These themes, in light of the current literature, identify that while there may be a formula, as in the set of common themes, it is not necessarily a formula for traumatic loss, rather an opportunity to help identify issues adoptees may need to work on through natural evolution or clinical work. Future studies will be important in adding validity to the themes identified as well as identifying individual variables that may be important when considering their experiences of growing up in adopted families.

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