“To Meet Her, that Changed Everything”: Adult Adoptees’ Discursive Construction of the Meaning of “Parent” following Birth Parent Contact

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This study utilized Relational Dialectics Theory 2.0 to examine how adult adoptees constructed the meaning of the term parent following contact with a birth parent. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 30 adult adoptees who had made contact with a birth parent. Two primary discourses emerged. The discourse of parent as a specific person (DPSP) emerged when participants felt that parent referred exclusively to their adoptive parents; the definition did not change when participants made contact with their birth parent. The discourse of parent as a label (DPL) emerged when participants defined parent as a flexible role that could be filled by multiple people; their definition of parent changed only after making contact with their birth parent, and they included their birth parent in their definition of parent. These discourses demonstrated interplay through negating, countering, and entertaining. The results of this study add to the literature on adoptive family communication and Relational Dialectics Theory.