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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Communication Studies and Theatre

First Advisor

Laurie Haleta


This study explores the nature of adopted adults’ communication of adoptive identity in lieu of the family. Ten research participants (n = 10) were interviewed about communication of identity to individuals unaware of participants’ adoptive identity. Using the Constant Comparative Method of Grounded Theory, (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) the researcher conducted a qualitative content analysis using the communication theory of identity and relational dialectics theory 2.0. Results revealed four identity gaps: personal-relational, personal-enacted, relational-enacted, and personal-communal and four dialectical tensions: openness/closedness, integration/separation, acknowledgement of identity/ownership of identity, and predictability/surprise. This study found the existence of two less explored identity gaps, relational-enacted and personal-communal. Participants’ responses revealed a new discursive struggle between acknowledgement of identity and ownership of identity. Last, the tension between predictability/surprise exists in non-adoption research. The emergence of this communicative struggle demonstrates the need for research to focus on the adopted individual in adoption studies. Analysis of results and discussion of future research is provided.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Adoptees -- Psychology
Identity (Psychology)


Includes bibliographical references (pages 116-128)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


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