A qualitative exploration of transracial Korean American adoptees reclaiming birth names

Jason D Reynolds, Fordham University


This dissertation study explored the experiences of transracial Korean American adoptees reclaiming birth names. Participants were born in Korea, adopted by White American families by the age of five, and given Anglo-American sounding names by their adoptive parents. At some point in their lives, participants decided to exercise all or part of their Korean birth name in some or all contexts, legally or otherwise. Of the nineteen participants (age 18–43), twelve identified as female, six identified as male, and one identified as gender queer/transmasculine. Each participant completed a demographic questionnaire and an in-depth, semi-structured interview utilizing a constructivist-interpretivist paradigm to explore the decision-making process of reclaiming one’s birth name. Interviews were conducted in person, over the phone, or via Skype. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using grounded theory methodology and interpreted through a Critical Race Theory lens. The purpose of the study was to explore participant experiences of reclaiming their birth name, factors that led to this decision, the impact that this decision had on interpersonal relationships and one’s relationship with self, shifts in identity, and reflections from the interview. Results showed that participants reclaimed their entire name or incorporated part of their Korean name across various contexts due to feeling their adoptive name was misleading and did not reflect their true self/identity. Clinical implications and future areas of research related to names, identity, and adoption are discussed.

Subject Area

Asian American Studies|Counseling Psychology|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Reynolds, Jason D, "A qualitative exploration of transracial Korean American adoptees reclaiming birth names" (2016). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10116316.