history of transnational adoption in the US
As of 2012, there were 1.7 million adoptive households across the country and 2% of all US children live with at least one adoptive parent, with an increase in international adoption leading to more multicultural US families. Furthermore, the majority of current adoptions are international and transracial. From 1990 to 2005, there was an increase from 7,093 international adoptees to 22,728. Additionally, in the 2009 report, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicated that 40% of all US adoptions were transracial (Lee, 2006; McDermott, 2021; Park, 2012).
adoptee identity crisis
As mentioned previously, the largest makeup of adoptive families in the United States is white parents with Asian children (Park, 2012). Unfortunately, parents who have adopted transracially sometimes reject or downplay their child’s racial or ethnic differences, leading them to assimilate into white culture, both consciously and subconsciously (McDermott, 2021; Lee, 2003). Thus, Asian American transracial adoptees sometimes receive the status of an “honorary white” in their families and communities where the child is seen as white because their families are white and they have assimilated into white culture (Baden, 2016; McDermott, 2021). Furthermore, research has shown how it can be difficult for transracial adoptive parents to engage their children in cultural exploration activities due to location as well as their own beliefs and views on race. There are times when adoptive families may have a color-blind approach to race or have existing implicit stereotypes about Asian American children (Park, 2012). All of these factors can affect an adoptee’s identity and how they view themselves both as an adoptee and as an Asian American/Chinese American.
ethnic identity, perceived discrimination, and well-being in adoptees
Ethnic identity is something that becomes salient during emerging adulthood and is central to the normative development of adoptees and development of a positive ethnic identity has been associated with psychological adjustment in regard to self-esteem (Ferrari et al., 2017). Ethnic identity formation can be difficult for adoptees as they do not always share a common heritage with their adoptive families (Ferrari et al., 2017; McDermott, 2021; Lee, 2003). Perceived ethnic discrimination is the perception of unjustified negative behavior by members of a dominant group aimed at rejecting members from another, less dominant ethnic group (Ferrari et al., 2017).
history of anti-asian racism in the US
The first large group of Chinese immigrants to the United States occurred in the 1850s as part of the California Gold Rush, which brought cheap labor in the mining, agricultural and railroad industries (Chen, 2020; Gover et al., 2020). Many Chinese immigrants, mostly men, came to the United States to work in order to support themselves and send the rest of their earnings to their families back in China. Because these Chinese immigrants were unaware of American labor laws, they were willing to work longer hours, get paid lower wages and work in harsher conditions than American citizens, which made them more resourceful to employers. This led to employers hiring more Chinese immigrants over American citizens. Unfortunately, Americans saw this as the Chinese trying to steal their jobs (Chen, 2020; Dunigan, 2017).
COVID-specific hate incidents
In March of 2020, President Trump declared a national emergency in the United States over the coronavirus, an outbreak that would soon become a global pandemic (Reny & Barreto, 2020). While the threat of this virus to the public health and economy of the United States was serious, another threat was being made. Those of Asian ethnicity were suffering from various forms of discrimination across the United States (Gover et al., 2020; Li & Nicholson, 2020). Part of the reason for this is how the COVID-19 pandemic was being presented in the media. President Trump, other Republicans, and even social media influencers, began to demonize the Chinese and other Asian Americans through the use of words such as “Wuhan Virus”, “Chinese Virus”, “Kung Flu”, and more when referring to COVID-19 (Gover et al., 2020; Huang & Liu, 2020; Li & Nicholson, 2020; Reny & Barreto, 2020).
Psychological well-being (PWB) is a multidimension construct that includes “the ability to maintain a sense of autonomy, self-acceptance, personal growth, purpose in life and self-esteem” (Brugha, 2015, p. 187) and is the positive version of psychological distress. Together, psychological distress and psychological well-being make up the two dimensions of mental or psychological health (Dagenais-Desmarais & Savoie, 2012; Joshanloo, 2018). Understanding this concept is still heterogeneous as there are a wide array of conceptualizations of PWB. It is difficult to fully conceptualize what goes into a person’s overall happiness and life satisfaction (Dagenais-Desmarais & Savoie, 2012). Some examples of theories that are associated with PWB are embedded within developmental and clinical psychology. These include Erikson’s model of psychosocial development, Maslow’s conception of self-actualization, and the absence of mental illness (Brugha, 2015; Ryff, 1995). However, all of these theories surround the same common themes that go into the dimensions of well-being. These themes are self-acceptance, personal growth, autonomy, positive relationships, environmental mastery, and purpose in life (Ryff, 1995).
life events and psychological well-being
There are several life events (LEs) that can disrupt someone’s PWB and turn it into psychological distress. LEs are “incidents that can significantly interfere with ongoing life, necessitating adjustment to habitual life either temporarily or on a permanent basis” (Cleland et al., 2016, p. 2). Some examples of LEs are the death of a close relative or a friend, moving, changes to your work environment, or experiencing racial discrimination. Past literature has shown how LEs play a role in changes to physiological and biological processes of individuals. This heightens their susceptibility to develop acute and/or chronic life-threatening conditions as a consequence of stress. Additionally, LEs can lead to detrimental changes in health and well-being by leading to the development of unhealth lifestyles such as increased alcohol intake or smoking (Cleland et al., 2016). Furthermore, the stressful nature of certain events can act as a precipitating factor in the onset of physical and mental health symptoms (Williams et al., 1981).
subjective well-being and collective self-esteem
Subjective well-being (SWB), also known as people’s evaluation of their lives, is an essential component of positive psychological health and allows people to define well-being for themselves (Diener et al., 1998). SWB can be divided into three dimensions: life satisfaction, positive affect (experiencing pleasant moods and emotions) and low negative affect (Diener & Ryan, 2009; Joshanloo, 2018). There has been much research about how both SWB and PWB are distinct constructs that influence each other over time. For example, there is the broad and build theory posits that positive emotions build personal resources and aid in psychological resilience and well-being over time. However, self-determination theory predicts that there are certain lifestyles associated with happiness and positive affect. Both of these theories show how PWB and SWB can influence each other in different ways (Joshanloo, 2018). Previous research found that initial levels of PWB predicted positive changes in the levels of SWB over time. Thus, we can see how psychological well-being as a whole can contribute to fluctuations in subjective well-being (Joshanloo, 2018). This means that someone’s current mental state can lead to certain changes in how they perceive their own life’s happiness.
social identity theory
Social Identity Theory (SIT) is a social psychological theory developed by Tajfel and Turner (2004) that explains intergroup conflict through group-based self-definitions. SIT posits that individuals define their own identities in regard to social groups and such definitions protect and bolster self-identity (Islam, 2014). Because social identity is based on the protection and enhancement of self-concepts, a threat, known as a social identity threat, to someone’s self-concept is related to identity. For example, negative out-group characterizations can result from perceptions of out-groups as competing for resources, such as the perception of an out-group stealing available jobs from in-group members. Furthermore, SIT posits that much discrimination, prejudice and intergroup conflict result from group-based categorization and self-enhancement motives. This means that individuals will strive to have a positive view of themselves and high self-esteem. This type of categorization can lead to negative evaluations of out-groups, stereotyping, out-group degradation, and eventually intergroup conflict (Adams, 2008; Gagnon & Bourhis, 1996; Islam, 2014; Tajfel & Turner, 2004). The more intense intergroup conflict between groups is, the more likely out-group individuals will behave towards each other as a function of their respective group membership (Tajfel & Turner, 2004).
social identity theory and racism - minimal group paradigm
When thinking about racism, it is hard to define an abstract concept. However, some researchers have conceptualized the term into thinking about different parts that go into why racism exists. One of those parts is ignorance. This comes from the idea that people who embrace prejudices or endorse stereotypes do so because of a lack of accurate information about stigmatized groups. Part of this lack of awareness is due to a lack of intergroup contact. Research has shown that increased intergroup contact between out-groups can lead to beneficial outcomes, especially when it is done under conditions of equal status, inclusive superordinate goals, and cooperation (Adams et al., 2008). Without intergroup contact, prejudices and stereotypes do not change and discrimination continues.