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Submit a Manuscript to the Journal
Journal of Family Communication

For a Special Issue on
Family Communication and Adoption

Manuscript deadline
15 October 2021

Cover image - Journal of Family Communication

Special Issue Editor(s)

Colleen Colaner, University of Missouri
[email protected]

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Family Communication and Adoption

Adoption has existed as a family formation practice for centuries. Adoption takes various forms around the world, including but not limited to domestic infant adoption, transracial adoption, international adoption, adoption from foster care, kinship adoption, and informal adoption. Spanning these adoption practices is a central commonality: adoption relationships are created and sustained through communication (Colaner & Kranstuber, 2021). Communication with and about the adoptee, adoptive family, and birth family forms the basis of individual and family level experiences, including identity, relational solidary, and trauma and grief resolution. Adoptive and birth families are particularly discourse dependent, meaning they rely on internal and external communication to make sense of their family structure, create belongingness in the face of genetic disparity in the adoptive family and separation from genetic relatives, and justify and defend their family legitimacy in the response to societal discourses of biological normativity (Galvin, 2006).

While a substantive literature on adoption communication exists, important empirical questions remain. For example:

  • New research emerging from neuroscience and fetal and infant learning suggests that adoption trauma may be more pervasive and consequential than initially understood (Perry, 2020).
  • Open adoption practices have become normative in domestic adoption (Grotevant, 2020). More research is needed to articulate best practices for navigating emotional distance regulation while promoting connection between birth families and the children they have placed for adoption.
  • Transracial and international adoption placements create complicated and at times difficult implications for racial identity (Marcelli, 2020). As White supremacy continues to create and perpetuate a racially-charged society, it is important to understand how White adoptive parents experience the racism their child faces, socialize their child’s racial identity, protect their minority child against racism and discrimination, and combat racially charged violence and discrimination.
  • Adoption research tends to focus on adoptive parents' experiences (Colaner & Kranstuber, 2021). More research is needed to give voice to birth family experiences, particularly birth father experiences, which are largely unrepresented in adoption research.
  • Adopted children’s voices are also largely silenced. It is important to understand what adopted minors comprehend about their adoption and what their communication needs and preferences are.
  • Adopted children are connected to vast webs of intergenerational relationships. More research is needed to understand how adoptees navigate relationships with biological family members, including siblings, grandparents, and extended families.
  • New genetic testing offers opportunities to gather new information on medical predispositions, information on ancestral origins, and contact to living genetic relatives. Understanding the challenges that this new information presents will be crucial to supporting adoptees as they navigate this new and increasingly available technology.
  • Family communication research has a natural tie to psychoeducation, suggesting that existing adoption communication research can provide useful insights to adoption practitioners, mental health professionals, and adoptive and birth families. Future research-based, evidence-tested adoption communication training programs have great potential to support the adoption community.

These and other important research questions compel adoption scholars to think critically about the next iteration of adoption research. Communication processes sustain individuals and families in these and other adoption contexts. Thus, the purpose of this special issue of the Journal of Family Communication (Volume 22, Issue 3 in 2022), edited by Colleen Warner Colaner, is to highlight the role of communication processes embedded in adoption placements, with an inclusive focus on all the members of the adoption placement network.

Submission Instructions

Data-based manuscripts should be theoretically grounded and firmly center communication processes central to adoptive family functioning and individual wellbeing. A wide array of theoretical approaches and topics are welcome, including but not limited to resilience/coping, maintenance, rituals/routines, new/social media, health outcomes, privacy management, ambiguous loss, relational turbulence, relational dialectics, and narrative theorizing. Given the history of White supremacy in adoption practice, we strongly encourage research that illuminates how adoption practices are uniquely experienced by families of color, transracial adoptees, and multiethnic families.

In line with the editorial policy of the Journal of Family Communication, we solicit data-based research that utilizes qualitative, quantitative, or critical methods from a broad range of fields (e.g., communication, family studies, health prevention and promotion, social psychology) in both face-to-face and mediated contexts in which family communication is the central focus of the study. All manuscripts should include a translational research section, which should be placed toward the end of the Discussion section. This translational section should provide several practical or social contributions or implications for audiences outside academia (e.g., preK-12 instruction, counselors, and social service agencies) as a way to apply the study results to “real” families or “real” family situations.

Critical reflections manuscripts should center on a pedagogical, theoretical, methodological, practical, or ethical problem or issue relevant to adoption practice. Critical reflections should be as data-driven as possible, describe the problem or issue, and provide resolution to the problem or issue.

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