New families, old stories: Media analysis of kinship and adoption in American media

Project: 96
Name: Mary Ebeling (; 215-895-6145)
Department: Culture and Communication
Academic Area: Sociology

Title: New families, old stories: Media analysis of kinship and adoption in American media

This project examines American popular news, entertainment and social media depictions of adoption: adopted children and their birth families, adopted parents, and extended families. As people build families and new kinds of kinship models through adoption, these families have become more common or at least more visible in American media (think of all of the stories of celebrities adopting children or recent films such as Mother and Child (2010). How has media depictions of the adoption triad (child, birth parents and adoptive parents) changed over the past five years? Through a broad and expansive collection of recent depictions of the adoption relationship in film, television and social (online) media, this project will examine how adoption is handled in both news and popular media as well as how bloggers discuss and understand the issues around adoption.

Associated Independent Study:
The CoAS Humanities Research Fellow will have the opportunity to construct their own independent study alongside the research support they will provide to the project. The fellow will help to construct a literature review and help with data collection and analysis. They will find and help analyze media that depicts adoption, adopted families, birth parents, international adoption, same-sex couple adoption, and the adoption of at-risk or special needs children within a content analytical framework. The fellow, in consultation with me, will have the opportunity to develop his or her own research based on this project, if the fellow finds a particular aspect of adoption in popular media particularly interesting. Ideas for independent study include: What are the differences in media narratives about same-sex families who adopt children and straight families who adopt? How are identities of adopted children constructed through media coverage of international adoption? How does American media coverage of open adoption shape the public debate about the level of openness in adoption?

Gained Experience:
The research fellow will gain skills in reviewing and writing academic texts, they will learn how to critically analyze popular media and write analytically about the media. The fellow will also learn how to collect and organize media-based data as well as use qualitative analysis software, such as Nvivo or Qualrus. These skills will translate to other areas of the fellow's academic career.

Two articles. One will be published with the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute as a white paper; the other will be submitted as a scholarly journal article, most likely to a journal that specializes in either media studies or in family studies.

Searching for and review key literature relevant to the research question. Finding, watching and annotation of films, television shows and other visual media that depicts adoption. Collecting and support in analysis of news stories and social media (i.e. "Mommy Blogs") that depict or address adoption. Support in data analysis of all collected data.

The project will take place primarily on the main campus of Drexel University...the fellow, with prior agreement with me, can conduct the research in an appropriate venue, either at the Hagerty Library and/or at my office in the PSA building (33rd & Powelton). The literature review can be conducted independently, with guidance, and as can some of the media analysis.

While it is expected that the fellow will work on the project fulltime during the summer quarter, meetings with the fellow will occur once to twice a week, for progress reports and guidance. A full workday, where the fellow and I will work together will be scheduled for each week of the summer quarter, so the fellow will be working on the project approximately 20 hours per week.

Interview Availability:
April 16, Apil 17, April 18