School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


Gail Collins


Adolescent, Adoptee Perceptions, Identity, International Adoption


Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Psychology


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to understand the perspectives of young adults who were internationally adopted to the United States during their adolescent years and to describe the experiences that contributed to their identity development. Erikson’s psychosocial development theory guided this study as it examined the relationships, roles, and values that humans commit to during the critical period of adolescence. Social identity theory furthered insight as to how individuals have defined themselves and their social categorization within groups, while the multiple dimensions of identity model helped define the key categories, themes, and contextual influences that have contributed to the adoptee’s psychological and social adjustment in their search for self. Thirteen participants were a purposefully selected sample of international adoptees who were ages 12–17 years at the time of adoption and have since graduated from high school or have obtained a General Equivalency Diploma (GED). Individuals were ages 18–26 years at the time of participation and had been residents of the United States for at least five years. Surveys, adoption records, semi-structured interviews, identity models, and advice letters were methods for collecting data of the adoptees’ experiences and perceptions. Significant statements were captured from the data and clustered into themes. The synthesis of textural and structural descriptions provided a basis for understanding the essence of the phenomena (Moustakas, 1994). Through this process, barriers to self-development, the impact of relationships, the international adoptee’s sense of purpose, as well as the resulting complex identity dimensions they perceive, came to light.