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The war at home: affective economics and transnationally adoptive families in the United States.

  • Stryker, Rachael
Published Article
International migration (Geneva, Switzerland)
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2011
PMID: 22180883


The question of how to best conduct post-placement interventions for transnationally adoptive families at risk of dissolution (legal annulment) is an emerging issue in the United States. The current popular trend for adoptive families to pursue biomedical post-placement interventions, despite a lack of proof that such interventions actually work to keep the adoptive family intact, suggests the need for a more phenomenological approach to understanding both adoptive parents’ and transnational adoptees’ post-placement experiences. This study examines the empirical experiences of adoptive families at risk of dissolution in the United States who attempt to define and navigate the path toward family stability after adopting. From the coding of this data set emerge some routes through and by which emotions circulate between adoptive parents and transnational adoptees through the family body and the family social. Particularly, it investigates one post-placement “affective economy” at work in which adoptive parents attempt, through the expression of particular forms of parental love, to align adoptees as subjects of the private, nuclear American family, while adoptees more often attempt to create space for more heterogeneous forms of family, ones that include birth parents and other kin-like relations in their countries of origin. Ultimately, it illuminates some vastly different and sometimes contradictory ways that adoptive parents and adoptees can interpret family through emotional lenses, ones that can prevent a smooth post-placement transition for adoption actors. An understanding of these differences and how they shape, and are shaped by, the post-placement affective economy within families at risk of dissolution may aid in locating indicators for adoption dissolution, and possibly, designing more effective post-placement interventions for families struggling in the aftermath of adoption. It may also help scholars begin to think about the construction and impact of affective economies in the realm of adoption more generally.

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