07 SES 07 B, Education and Identity Formation
The aim of the study, which began in 2005 is to identify the experiences of internationally adopted children (from China and India) and their families in Iceland. The children’s adjustment to their families, their experiences of preschools and compulsory schools are examined as well as their adaptation to their peer groups and communities.
The main research questions in the project are: What are the parents’ experiences and expectations regarding their children and their own role as parents and how do these change with time? How were the children received upon their coming to Iceland – by individuals, schools and other institutions? What are the children´s experiences of their peer groups, schools and communities? What support, formal or informal is available to these children and their parents?
In the paper the main emphasis will be on findings related to the children´s experiences of schooling, their peer groups and family life based on interviews with the children in 2012.
The theoretical background of the study includes a discussion on attachment theory and the development of internationally adopted children´s self-identity (Ainsworth, 1989; Bowlby,1988; Sætersdal and Dalen, 1999). Most psychologists agree that the pattern of attachment is of crucial importance for the child and his or her development in the coming years. While there are some implications that because of adoptive children’s background they might lack this nourishing environment and some of them might have experienced a severe deprivation (Ainsworth, 1989; Bowlby,1988), many adoptive parents possess resources and characteristics that make them able parents and protect them against strong negative outcomes (O’Brien & Zamostny, 2003). Therefore it is important to study the adoptive children’s adaptation to a new country, to preschools and elementary schools and the grown-ups´ – parents, teachers and others – endeavours to ensure their success and wellbeing.
The experiences of the children in diverse school settings, their development of languages and self-identities and their social networks in a multicultural society are other issues that are considered in the study (Ragnarsdóttir, 2011). It is important to consider how they manage learning a new language on the basis of a first language, in which some of them have a very limited basis or experience of its use. The difference between these children and f.ex. immigrant children in Iceland is that the former generally cease hearing their first language in their near environment. Many of them furthermore have a weak basis in their first language, due to difficult conditions in their country of origin (Ragnarsdóttir & Jónsdóttir, 2010). It is important to study the effects on a child when its first language disappears suddenly from its environment. Furthermore, studies have revealed that there is a close relation between the development of language and self-identity of a child (James and Woll, 2004; Mills, 2004) and in Sætersdal´s and Dalen´s (1999) findings they discuss the variations of identity development among internationally adopted children, as well as difficulties that arise for some of the children in identity development, all relevant findings for this study.
Ainsworth, M. D. S (1989). Attachments beyond infancy. American Psychologist, 44, 709-716. Bowlby, J. (1988). A secure base. Clinical applications of attachment theory. London: Routledge. James, M. & Woll, B. (2004). Black Deaf or Deaf Black? Being Black and Deaf in Britain. In A. Pavlenko & A. Blackledge (Eds.), Negotiation of Identities in Multi¬lin¬gual Contexts (125-160). Clevedon o.fl.: Multilingual Matters Ltd. Kvale, S. (1996). Interviews: An introduction to qualitative research interviewing. Thousand Oaks: Sage. Mills, J. (2004). Mothers and Mother Tongue: Perspectives on Self-Construction by Mothers of Pakistani Heritage. In A. Pavlenko & A. Blackledge (Eds.), Negotiation of Iden¬ti¬ties in Multilingual Contexts (161-191). Clevedon o.fl.: Multilingual Matters Ltd. O’Brien, K. M. & Zamostny, K. P. (2003). Understanding adoptive families: An integrative review of empirical research and future directions for counseling psychology. The Counseling Psychologist, 31(6), 679–710. Ragnarsdóttir, H. (2011). Líf og störf ungra innflytjenda: Reynsla ungmenna af tíu ára búsetu á Íslandi. Uppeldi og menntun, 20(2), 53-70. Ragnarsdóttir, H. & Jónsdóttir, E. (2010). Ættleiðing erlendra barna á Íslandi: Aðlögun og samskipti í fjölskyldum og leikskólum. Rannsóknir í félagsvísindum XI. Erindi flutt á ráðstefnu í október 2010. University of Iceland: Þjodarspegillinn. Sætersdal, B. & Dalen, M. (1999). Hvem er jeg? Adopsjon, identitet og etnisitet. Akribe Forlag.
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