Lee Navigates Identities and Complex Experiences of Transracial Adoptees in APA Interview

Headshot of Dr. Rich Lee

In a recent article published by the American Psychological Association (APA), Rich Lee was interviewed about the experiences of transracial adoptees. The interview shed light on the challenges faced by these individuals, particularly addressing what Lee referred to as the “transracial adoption paradox.” This paradox occurs when adoptees, raised in white communities with certain privileges, find themselves unprepared for societal challenges rooted in their racial identity.

Historically, studies on transracial adoption often utilize a color-blind approach, downplaying the significance of an adoptee’s cultural background compared to the nurturing environment provided by their adoptive family. Lee pointed out the shortcomings of this approach, emphasizing the need to consider the racial and ethnic lived experiences of adoptive children. Lee acknowledges the value of adoptive parents who actively include ethnic identity and cultural awareness in their children, equipping them to navigate racism and biases.

Despite ongoing research efforts to understand the higher prevalence of mental health issues among transracial adoptees, Lee cautioned therapists against assuming that adoptees’ counseling needs are solely based on their adoption history. Instead, therapists should remain attentive to this aspect and be open to exploring its potential impact on an individual’s well-being over time. 

Rich Lee, PhD, Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the Department of Psychology, and Director of the FamiLee Lab and of the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Minnesota.

Composed by Madison Stromberg, communications assistant.

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