Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Study Findings of Adoption Stereotypes in the Media

I am always posting about how disheartened that I am with the media's portrayal of adoptees.  My biggest bone to pick has always been that the media goes beyond accurate portrayal of adoption or telling of an event involving adoption, and into enforcing damaging stereotypes of the actual people who live adoption every day.  Adoption is an institution; we should be able to discuss it without portraying unhealthy and condemning views of entire groups of people.

My most recent annoyance with this issue was the Sony commercial where a gentleman playing a woman's father growled "you're adopted!" at her to try to distract her from dominating the game the family was playing.  Another recent appearance of adoption in the media was the reporting of an adoptee who was adopted from Mexico that various media sources used to bring up the topic of deportation.

The 2009 study I just read reviewed news stories on adoption from 2001 to 2005 (309 stories).  They researched the common types of adoption-related stories that tend to make the news (e.g. fraud, crime) as well as the impact it might have on perpetuating negative stereotypes of the individuals involved in adoption.

The quote is from the abstract:
"Adoptees as defective or unhealthy were depicted more in negative news event stories, birth parents appeared less overall, and adoptive parents were most likely to have healthy depictions in positively oriented adoption experience, big family, and reunion stories. Although three quarters of the stories used primary adoption participants as news sources, one-third of the negative event stories did not contain healthy depictions of adoption participants. The authors discuss ways journalists and researchers might improve adoption news coverage."
The study seemed to suggest the interchangeability of a positive portrayal of adoption with the positive portrayal of individuals impacted by adoption.  In essence, stigmas against adoption participants are partly due to which types of stories (crime, fraud) the media pushes most.  They discussed that stigmatization may also result from poor word choices and reporting.

I agree to an extent.  I do think that the media uses poor word choices and often specifically chooses to represent a generalization of adoptees or a specifically negative portrayal of an adoptee as a person, rather than sticking to the issue being discussed.  I do not, however, see promoting a singularly positive view of adoption as being synonymous with portraying a positive view of individuals impacted by adoption.  Thinking well of the institution of adoption does not mean that a given person will think well of the individuals living adoption, or understand their needs past stereotypes.

Reference:
Kline, S. L., Chatterjee, K., & Karel, A. I. (2009). Healthy Depictions? Depicting Adoption and Adoption News Events on Broadcast News. Journal of Health Communication, 14(1), 56-69. doi:10.1080/10810730802592254

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