Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name




Degree Program

Sociology, MA

Committee Chair

Gagne, Patricia

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Christopher, Karen

Committee Member

Christopher, Karen

Committee Member

Schroeder, Ryan

Author's Keywords

Adoption; Adoptive Parent; Stigma; Family


Adoption challenges the traditional Western notions of kinship and family formation. Because of this, adoption has become a stigmatized status in American culture. Utilizing a grounded theoretical approach, this study examines the experiences of stigma by adoptive parents in the United States and the ways adoptive parents react to and manage this stigmatization. Qualitative interviews were conducted with a diverse sample of 17 adoptive parents living across the country. It was found that adoptive parents experienced stigma through comments made during their interactions with others, which fell into four categories: hesitation toward the birth parents, suspicion of the costs, assumptions concerning adoptive parents’ motives, and reservations questioning the validity of adoption. In reaction, adoptive parents engaged in stigma management strategies to resist and redefine cultural beliefs about adoptive families. They should to educate society on the realities of adoption by being open with their stories while challenging the assumptions and language of these experiences in hopes of normalizing adoption in America.