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Title: Adopting siblings : the sibling relationship in parental narratives of adoption
Author: Thompson, Olivia
ISNI:       0000 0004 5350 6945
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2015
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This study examines an aspect of adoption which has been given only limited or partial attention in adoption research even though it is an increasing trend in adoption practice: sibling adoption. For adoption practitioners the issue of whether to place siblings together or apart is a vexed one. This is the dilemma upon which research on sibling adoption has focused, developing approaches to assessing the sibling relationship to help evaluate the benefits and disadvantages of keeping siblings together, whilst keeping the needs of the individual children in mind. The present research was motivated by what appeared to be a significant oversight in thinking around this dilemma: the possible impact of the sibling relationship on the adoptive parents. This oversight seemed indicative of a twofold omission: firstly, of a distinction between the meaning and implications for the adoptive parent-couple of adopting siblings rather than an individual child; secondly, of a full recognition of the complexity of sibling relationships - particularly those born out of early experiences of neglect and relational trauma - and how they might play out in the context of an adoption placement. With the aim of addressing these omissions I interviewed a small sample of adoptive parents and made their narratives of the experience of adopting a sibling-pair the object of my study. My hope was thus to shed some light on what it is like for previously childless couples to become the parents of siblings. My experience of doing the interviews and a narrative and thematic analysis of the parents’ accounts lead to some interesting findings: whilst the interviews elicited rich stories about their adoption experiences, it was difficult to hold the parents to talking about the sibling story. The affective vector seemed to lie in the respondents’ narratives of personal transformation or affirmation through the adoption, rather than in their encounters with the sibling relationship. In my discussion I consider how a sense of omission has often been expressed in sibling research, despite a growing literature on the subject. With reference to Mitchell’s psychoanalytic propositions about the role of siblings in our internal world, and Laplanche’s concepts of ‘going astray’ and ‘covering-over’ in psychoanalysis, I posit that we struggle to engage with the complexity of siblinghood both in theory and practice because of the profound and enduring existential threat that real and fantasied siblings pose to the individual’s sense of security, self-identity and value in the family, the group and any social milieu.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Psych.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available