Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Rick Gressard


This study explored the relationships between racial identity, ethnic identity, and acculturation in transracial Korean adopted adolescents. The research questions were as follows: What is the relationship between racial and ethnic identity for adoptees? What is the relationship between racial identity and adoptees' level of acculturation? What is the relationship between adoptees' level of acculturation and ethnic identity? The research was exploratory in nature and entailed a quantitative design comprised of (1) a demographic profile, (2) Helm's (1995) People of Color Scale to measure racial identity, (3) Suinn-Lew's (1992) Self-Identity Acculturation Scale (SL-ASIA) to measure ethnic identity, and (4) Schonpflug's (1997) Need for Assimilation, Differentiation, and Inclusion Scale to determine level of acculturation.;The sample group was comprised of 69 adoptees ranging in age from early-adolescence (11--14 years) to mid-adolescence (15--17 years), and early adulthood (18--25 years). Findings, for the most part, substantiated the hypothesized relationships between the three constructs. It was determined that the more adoptees derive their racial identity from a white reference group orientation, the more likely they were to be Western-identified ethnically, and were to be more highly acculturated into the American mainstream. Also, adoptees who align themselves with Korean or Asian cultural practices, or affiliate more with other Asians, have a higher need to be acculturated and/or included into their own racial and/or ethnic group. This was indicated by an inverse relationship between ethnic identity and acculturation. There were strong significant correlations between racial identity and acculturation as measured by the People of Color Scale (POC) and Need for Assimilation, Differentiation, and Inclusion Scale. Findings indicated that as adoptees have a greater ability to define a dualistic racial identity for themselves, embracing both their Korean heritage and western acculturation, they have an increased need for inclusion into their own ethnic group. The group as a whole is characterized as embracing a dualistic racial identity while tending to be more Western-identified ethnically, and having a somewhat greater need for assimilation or inclusion into the Korean community than differentiation from it.;This study illustrates that adoptees do progress through a process of racial identity development, although it may look different than for other racial minorities and Asian Americans. The more salient factors for adoptees seem to be own-group affiliations, both externally imposed or self-selected, and their experiences as Asians or Koreans in this country, rather than a need to be culturally Korean.



© The Author