Date of Award

Spring 5-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Sophie Janicke-Bowles, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Vikki Katz, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Megan Vendemia, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Jody Koenig Kellas, Ph.D.


Making sense of one’s identity is an integral part of the human experience. This study examines identity negotiation and sense-making processes among individuals who have particularly complex identities: Asian transracial adoptees. In the past six decades, more than 280,000 infants and children in Asian countries were abandoned or surrendered to social welfare institutes and were subsequently adopted by American families, making Asian transracial adoptees (ATRAs) a substantial, if frequently overlooked, proportion of the Asian American community. Prior research indicates that identity negotiation is a particularly daunting task for this demographic due to ever-present paradoxical feelings toward their identity, as they are phenotypically of one race but are raised within families and cultures of another.

This study takes an adoptee-centered approach to examining the struggle and resilience of the ATRA diaspora by efficacy testing a brief intervention, to demonstrate how media narratives can positively impact ATRA self-concept and self-esteem. Guided by the meaning-making model and communicated narrative sense-making theory (CNSM), this study uses a three-phase exploratory, sequential, and mixed-method design. Phase 1 used a secondary data analysis of in- depth, qualitative interviews with ATRAs (n = 14) to understand what stories about adoption they wished the media were telling. This phase laid an ATRA-centered basis for the intervention. Results indicated that participants wanted to see media narratives about adoption that are: (1) created by adoptees, (2) portray the complexities of transracial adoption, and (3) normalize the adoptee identity. Building on these findings, Phase 2 participants (n = 90) stimulus-tested two media narratives that fit ATRAs’ aforementioned criteria. Phase 3 efficacy tested the brief intervention. Participants (n = 66) were randomly assigned to an experimental group (i.e., viewing the media narrative and engaging in discussion) or a comparison group (i.e., only viewed the media narrative). Results indicated that although the brief intervention did not significantly increase ATRA well-being in the experimental condition, participants’ qualitative reports demonstrate benefits to well-being from partaking in the experiment. The theory-driven approach for developing and testing this mediated intervention contributes to, and extends, literature on the importance of positive media portrayals for individuals in marginalized communities.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.




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