The Psychology of Adoption
PSY 391AD - offered fall, 2011
Since the earliest times, humans have occasionally had to find alternative arrangements for rearing children. However, these arrangements are heavily influenced by the historical period, the culture in which the adoption is taking place, the economic situation, and the geopolitical realities of the times. We will keep all of these contextual factors (and the disciplinary lenses that go with them) in mind as we explore the psychology of adoption.
We will explore adoption from multiple perspectives. There are at least four parties to every adoption: the child, the child's biological parents, the child's parent(s) of rearing, and the individual(s) or entities that arranged the adoption. We will explore each of these perspectives throughout the semester, because they can provide very different vantage points. On occasion, the different parties have competing interests in how adoption should work. We will try to understand what those competing interests might be.
Everyone has opinions about adoption -- what's right or wrong, how it should work, what its outcomes are, and so on. Some of these views are grounded in social science research and evidence; others are based on personal experience or small numbers of observations; yet others are personal opinion with no experiential grounding. Some are guided by ideology. We will explore the basis upon which views of adoption are grounded. In this context, the seminar will engage you in critical thinking. Many different points of view are to be found in the extensive writings about adoption, and you will need to constantly think in critical ways about what you read and what you hear. Although all sources should be critically evaluated, this especially applies to material found on the internet. (A recent Google search on "adoption" pulled up 102,000,000 hits.) Note: Wikipedia is not considered an authoritative source and should not be used as a reference for this course.
For people directly involved in adoption, it can be a very personal and intimate topic, laden with emotion. We will explore the personal experiences of adoption as well as the academic knowledge about this unique family arrangement. Films, documentaries, and guest speakers will provide different perspectives for us to consider.
Since adoption can be a personal and emotion-laden topic, people often have strong feelings about how adoption should and should not work. We will discuss ethical principles that can help guide decisions about adoption practice and policy. We will also discuss adoption advocacy and how the political process influences policy and practice.
Because adoption involves many different experiences and feelings, mutual respect among seminar participants is expected at all times. Seminar participants can and will likely disagree with each other about various things over the semester, but disagreement is to be expressed within a context of civility and safety. Some seminar participants are likely to have personal connections to adoption and others not. Whether and when such connections are discussed is strictly up to each participant.
After participating in this course, students should be able to:
• think critically about the knowledge base upon which our understanding of adoption rests
• identify strengths and limitations of different kinds of evidence that provide insight about adoption (e.g., personal experience, case studies, quantitative research, qualitative research, meta-analyses)
• understand adoption from the perspective of its multiple participants: adopted persons, birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoption intermediaries
• argue and evaluate different points of view with respect to controversial adoption issues
• listen to and respect diverse points of view which may not coincide with their own
• understand the psychology of adoption within the cultural, historical, geopolitical, and economic contexts in which it is embedded
• understand ways in which multiple disciplines contribute to the understanding of adoption