Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Freymond, Nancy

Advisor Role

LaFreniere, Ginnette


This research explores how people who were adopted over the age of 6 years old in open adoption arrangements navigate ongoing relationships with first family members. It explores perceptions of how a connection with both adoptive and first family members impacts self-concept. Using an interpretivist-constructivist lens, the narratives of four women are presented and analyzed. In addition to qualitative interviews, each participant was invited to create images that represented relationships with significant family members. The narratives are re-presented in detail adhering closely to the teller’s organization and emphases. In the analysis, themes related to relationships with first family members and self-concept were developed. Participants described complex, often painful, family dynamics with adoptive and first family members, particularly mothers. Furthermore, participants were not assured that having a relationship with their first family would translate into having accurate and truthful information about their family history. Despite challenges, all participants recommended that children should maintain contact with first family members while living with adoptive family. They agreed that all family members would benefit from ongoing support to address the issues of divided loyalty, grief and the fear of rejection. Implications for social work practice are discussed.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season