Forming, Doing, and Governing Adoptive Motherhood of Asian Children

Date of Completion

January 2011


Asian American Studies|Social Work|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




This research journey began with the question concerning what can be revealed when we move from the bio-centric conception of motherhood to the perspective of non-biological motherhood. In exploring this question one of my goals was to increase understanding of the rich diversity of women's experiences of motherhood. This study examined white adoptive mothers' experiences of raising a child from an Asian country, China, South Korea, or the Philippines, hoping to gain new insights into the intricate relationship between the public and private spheres since becoming a mother through adoption is in part a product of institutionalized practices. The central methodology used to explore the multi-dimensionality of adoptive motherhood in this study is institutional ethnography. This methodology allows the researcher to develop a comprehensive understanding of adoptive mothers' motherhood experiences and mothering activities in the everyday world and discover how mothering activities in private and local settings are coordinated with the activities of others in extra-local settings. I pursued my research goals at multiple sites and through the use of several research methods. I interviewed thirty eight white adoptive mothers residing in Connecticut and Massachusetts. The information and insights I obtained from the interviews with adoptive mothers led me to investigate adoptive parenting magazines and books, adopted children's books, adoption agencies' booklets and websites, and international adoption regulations and policies as well as to interview a U.S. adoption social worker. I extended my research sites globally by conducting field research at a Korean adoption agency and formally interviewing Korean adoption social workers and informally interviewing Korean birth and foster mothers. The findings of this research reveal the multi-dimensionality of motherhood: motherhood as an identity, motherhood as an activity, motherhood as institutionalized, and motherhood as experienced. ^