Discursive struggles in families formed through visible adoption: An exploration of dialectical unity

Meredith Marko Harrigan, Dawn O. Braithwaite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations


Grounded in the interpretive paradigm and framed by relational dialectics theory, the present study addressed the question: What discourses interpenetrate to reflect dialectical unity as parents communicate about their child's adoption? Interviews with 40 parents across 31 visibly adoptive families*families with an obvious lack of biological connection*highlighted four instances of dialectical unity resulting from the following discursive struggles: (a) pride and imperfection; (b) love, constraint, and sacrifice; (c) difference, pride, and enrichment; and (d) legitimacy, expansion, similarity, and difference. Each struggle contains seemingly disparate discourses that, in combination, contribute to how parents discursively make sense of adoption. Practical implications of these findings are discussed to provide insight to researchers, educators, and members of visibly adoptive families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-144
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Applied Communication Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2010



  • Dialectical unity
  • Family communication
  • Interpretive research
  • Relational dialectics theory
  • Visible adoption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics

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