A case study : identity formation in a cross-racial adoptee in South Africa
Due to the history of Apartheid in South Africa, cross-racial adoption is a fairly recent practice which was only legalised when the law was amended in 1991 so that prospective parents were allowed to adopt a child from a different race to them. As the consequences of the past linger, the most common form of cross-racial adoption is White parents adopting Black children. Studies on cross-racial adoption have been extensively conducted internationally, but research in South Africa is sparse. In this research study an explorative case study of a cross-racially adopted young adult was conducted in order to explore and describe the formation of his identity. The study adopted a Social Constructionist approach to knowledge and transcripts from the interviews with the participant were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). IPA allows for a detailed exploration of the personal lived experience of a research participant and focuses on understanding how people construct their experiences and make meaning. Identity Process Theory (IPT) which is consistent with a social constructionist epistemology, was the theoretical framework used, through which the findings in this study were integrated. Findings indicated that the participant of the case study had challenges forming a coherent self-identity and that his adoption status and ethnicity played an important role in his identity development. Furthermore, findings showed that the social context both promoted and impeded his search for identity. Promotion of identity formation was always associated with a clearer understanding and sensitivity of people regarding the plight of the participant as a cross-racial adoptee. With the knowledge gained, it is hoped that families and psychological and welfare professionals will become better informed and better equipped in so far as empathy, sensitivity and best practice relating to the support for cross-racial adoptees are concerned.