Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Karen L. Suyemoto

Second Advisor

Alice S. Carter

Third Advisor

Rajini Srikanth


Since the Korean War, over 110,000 infants and children have been adopted from Korea by families in the United States. While early research examining Korea international adoptees emphasized physical well-being and adjustment, more recent research has explored racial and ethnic identity development. Although identity theory and adoption literature strongly suggests that identity development is a lifelong process, research examining the racial and ethnic identities of Korean adoptees has largely focused on childhood and adolescence.

This mixed-method study integrated constructivist grounded theory and relational quantitative methodology to explore the relations between the decision to become a first-time biological mother and the negotiation of racial identities, ethnic identities, and cultural orientations among Korean adopted women with White male partners. Nineteen open-ended interviews were conducted with 15 Korean adopted women (9 had decided to have a biological child within 2 years, 6 already had one or more biological children). Ninety-four women completed an online survey (51 undecided, 26 decided, 25 with one or more children) with measures assessing racial and ethnic identities and cultural orientations.

Thematic analysis of the qualitative interviews indicated that after deciding to have a biological child the women began an interactive process of reflecting upon, reconsidering, and reframing their own understandings of race, ethnicity, and culture as well as questioning, anticipating, and attempting to influence their child's experiences. A general model and three specific models depicting the influences of the decision to have a biological child on the identities and orientations of Korean adopted women were developed.

Quantitative findings demonstrated that all women engaged in significantly more European American than Korean American behaviors. However, the women who had not yet made a decision about having a biological child did not differ significantly from those who had decided or already had a biological child on any of the measures assessing racial and ethnic identities. When integrated with the qualitative findings, it seemed that the quantitative measures selected may not have fully reflected the types of changes that the women in this study experienced. In addition, findings suggest the importance of community-based interventions aimed at supporting Korean adopted women who are becoming first-time biological mothers.


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