Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Communication Studies

Department or School/College

Department of Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Alan Sillars

Commitee Members

Stephen Yoshimura, Kimber McKay


adoption, family, communication, discourse, diversity


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Interpersonal and Small Group Communication


This study examined how adoptive families discursively create family identity through their communication. Building on theories of discourse dependence and family communication patterns, this research examined how families whose identity does not meet a bio-genetic view of family must re-define family using communication. Often times, families that are created outside biological means must renegotiate family identity both within the family, and outside the family, from those who feel comfortable commenting and questioning their family composition. Communication becomes a tool that adoptees must use to understand their family identity, as well as their own adoptive identity. Furthermore, this study looked to see how adoptees recall intrusive interactions and memorable messages about adoption, and whether this differed based on transracial or monoracial adoptees.

Adult adoptees were asked to fill out an online survey, asking about intrusive interactions, memorable messages, and overall family communication styles. The results indicated that there was small differences between transracial and monoracial adoptees. However, family communication style had an important impact on how adoptees processed their adoption and felt part of the family, regardless of race. Open communication, and positive messages about adoption were associated with lower levels of preoccupation among adoptees as well as higher feeling of inclusiveness within their families. In addition, adoptees who were satisfied with how intrusive interactions were handled, either by themselves or by family members, felt lower preoccupation about their adoption. These results indicate that communication serves as a powerful tool for adoptive families to discursively redefine what family means beyond biological ties.



© Copyright 2016 Mackensie C. Minniear