Current Concepts of Identity Outdated, by Alex Kuch
Adoption is a complex process and one of the most complex challenges around adoptions is the identity of an individual. Ideas around identity in adoptions have a variety of views, even international recognized institutions such a UNICEF and The United Nations have taken on views in which they suggest that especially identity is limited to the geographical place of birth of an individual, hence in the (Declaration of the Rights of the Child,1959). Hence those organizations as a whole chose to interpret all 10 articles, those children needing to stay in their country of birth. They view identity as a static concept, whereas identity is socially constructed and is formed by the individual and the interactions with others over time.
This socio – autobiography will analyse how concepts of identity especially the looking glass self, the Me and I and racializing and how social forces have shaped me to be the person I am now and it will investigate the sociological importance of the concepts.
Charles Horton came up in his paper (Cooley, 1902) with the concept of the self-looking glass. It contains three key concepts; one imagines how one appears to another person. I on a personal level can definitely relate to that, especially due to my Roma or informally known as Gypsy ethnicity, which gives me a darker skin tone. As a result of this I imagine that most people who see me the first time that due to my appearance will think that I am from one of the following countries, the Middle East, India, Mexico or Spain or other countries which are considered to be ofmy skin tone. This is supported in various latest researchers such as (Perkins, K, 2014) how first and second immigrants felt in the United States.
Also one imagines how others judge ones appearance. Everyone does this and especially people who are marginalised in society. This happens across cultures and times.
I personally have experienced how I imagined others would judge me, after having been on Romanian national TV and talking about my life’s story and forgiving my biological mother for abandoning me. I expected them to be shocked about my behaviour because I behaved in a way that was counter-culture. Studies (Tice, D, 1992) have shown that behaviour in public had greater- effect on how one imagines the self and the anticipation of further public encounters increased the internalization. This certainly was the case for me.
But I didn’t imagine that people would instead also find some form of comfort in my actions, especially those who had abandoned their children and given them to the orphanages, there were numerous instances where older people in the public expressed this to me. In research, it has been shown that how others are viewed and judged effects how they feel about that perceived judgment (Shrauger, J, 1979) & (Aken, M, 1996).
Also as a result of the perceived judgment it affects the way one feels about themselves, I certainly can say that I felt really overwhelmed at how the people of Romania judged me in such a positive way and to some degree even gave me celebrity/ saint status, such as people asking to speak to me in public and having a photograph taken with me. As mentioned above research confirms that the more public interaction and the anticipation of this increases the internalization hence it also increases the way one would feel about the perceived judgment (Tice, D, 1992)
These kinds of events don’t just happen to me as an individual but happen to other people as well that have been in similar situations, despite being influenced by different social forces and across different time periods.
The concept of the looking glass self-has enormous sociological importance, especially in my example how adoptees feel about themselves as a result of the perceived judgment of others, hence a very basic argument can be made that society should be informed about adoptions and how people especially should be spoken to for all parties involved and how it can affect and make the people feel. A very recent study (Eriksson, P, 2015) shows that adoptive parents are really satisfied with pre-adoption education and while adoption occurred and it is a very vital process.
George Herbert Mead in (Mead, G, 1982) came up with concepts of the Me and the I, The ‘I’ is a person’s independent part that operates before an individual is aware that there is the world outside of their own self. The ‘me’ is as a result of the influence of other people in society.
For me personally I started to be aware that there is the world outside my own self at the age of 4 years. Research (Bloch, H, 1990) shows that the age this happens at is 2 years but starts from the age the person is born until they are 5 years old. However (Cooley, 1902) argues that individuals imagine how their self-appearance is judged by others, but this clearly is not the case for children under the age of 2 but varys of course and they don’t imagine how their appearance is judged and hence don’t have a perceived feeling of this judgment. This can be clearly seen by young children because in general on their own they don’t judge one another and don’t feel judged. I personally can say that at the age before one is aware of the world outside their self. However after the age of 2 the Me in an individual as (Mead, G, 1982) states is a result of the influences of other people in society. I personally definitely can say that for myself I was more influenced by family and close friends the older I got. This is also confirmed by (Cooley, 1902) that, we imagine how others view, judge one’s appearance and, as a result have a perceived feeling about the judgment made on a person.
Racialization is a common practice and we all have experienced it and done it ourselves. (Matthewman, S, 2013) defines racialization as ‘The process through which ideas and beliefs about race, together with class and gender, shape social relationships; in other words the social construction of race.” Or (Matthewman, S, 2013) defines racialisation as, “A social process by which ‘a group is classified as a race and defined as a problem”
I have many times experienced racialization especially that people often judge where I am from on my physical appearance and people are really shocked when I tell them that I am from Europe and adopted from Romania by German parents. There are these differences in terms of race and ethnicity.
|Inherited – Physical
||Learned – Social
The above table shows some key differences between Race and Ethnicity.
An overall key feature is that ethnicity is fluid and dynamic; however a lot of international organisations argue that an international adoption (inter-country adoptions) damages the adoptee’s identity. However, a person’s identity doesn’t depend on the country of birth but one factor such as what he has learned growing up and a person’s identity keeps changing and developing during their life.
Even people can have multiple or even mix ethnicities hence I can call myself a Romanian, German, New Zealander (Kiwi) and until recently this year I wouldn’t consider Romania one of my ethnicities but dramatic events such as being confronted with my biological family but even more inspecting orphanages and mental institutions gave me greater insights into Romanian’s past and present and shaped my personal identity.
The concept of racializing has vast sociological importance because we all judge others on numerous factors, such as ethnicity, religious beliefs and appearance. As a result of this certain perceptions take prominence and give rise to power of people asserting themselves over others. An example of this for me was that when I was adopted, one uncle said “You are adopting Alex, how don’t you know that he will not become a thief/ criminal” that was racialization because I was from Romania and would be adopted, which had and still has a bad stigma in regards to crime. Despite having been myself to Romania numerous times in various parts, I have never experienced any crimes and been treated with the utmost respect.
Hence in summary identity is a complex concept especially in Adoptions. However the arguments from institutions like the United Nations and especially UNICEF that inter-country adoptions causes’ damage to identity due to a person leaving their country of birth is a very racially based point of view and views identity as fixed. However identity consist of so much more such as discussed earlier the Me and I, the individual self and the influence of the self by society. The looking glass self concept where the views, perception and judgments of others affects the ways an individual feels about him or herself.
Something that would be good to investigate would be for those organizations to do more qualitative and Quantitative research into how actually institutions in my case orphanages, effects children or to look at existing research because they are not permanent solutions for children in the long term.
As well that racialization is very critical and these institutions often argue that certain ethnicities are more problematic than others however it is not the ethnicities, but the way individuals were treated; hence their personal experiences which form their identity, which often were of a psychological and physical nature.
Hence overall for me my identity has been affected by adoption but it has expanded my personal experiences and actually allows me to interact better with people of different ethnicities, due to my range of experiences.
Word count: 1619
Aken, M., Lieshout, A., & Haselager, G. (1996). Adolescents’ competence and the mutuality of their self-descriptions and descriptions of them provided by others. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 25(3), 285-306.
Bloch, H., & Bertenthal, B. I. (1990). Sensory-Motor Organizations and Development in Infancy and Early Childhood Proceedings of the NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Sensory-Motor Organizations and Development in Infancy and Early Childhood Chateu de Rosey, France (NATO ASI series. Series D, Behavioural and social sciences; 56). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.
Cooley, & Aut. (1922). Human Nature and the Social Order.
Eriksson, P., Elovainio, M., Mäkipää, S., Raaska, H., Sinkkonen, J., & Lapinleimu, H. (2015). The satisfaction of Finnish adoptive parents with statutory pre-adoption counselling in inter-country adoptions. European Journal of Social Work, 18(3), 412-429.
Matthewman, S., West-Newman, Catherine Lane, & Curtis, Bruce. (2013). Being sociological (2nd ed.). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Mead, G., & Miller, David L. (1982). The individual and the social self : Unpublished work of George Herbert Mead. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Perkins, K., Wiley, S., Deaux, K., & Zárate, Michael A. (2014). Through Which Looking Glass? Distinct Sources of Public Regard and Self-Esteem Among First- and Second-Generation Immigrants of Color. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 20(2), 213-219
Shrauger, J., Schoeneman, T., & Hernstein, R .j. (1979). Symbolic interactionist view of self-concept: Through the looking glass darkly. Psychological Bulletin,86(3), 549-573.
Tice, D., & Miller, Norman. (1992). Self-Concept Change and Self-Presentation: The Looking Glass Self Is Also a Magnifying Glass. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63(3), 435-451.
United Nations General Assembly Session 14 Resolution 1386. Declaration of the Rights of the Child A/RES/1386(XIV) 20 November 1959. Retrieved 2015-10-29.