Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Effects of Religion and Religiosity on Attitudes Towards Transracial Adoption

A recently released study in the Journal of Comparative Family Studies explores attitudes towards transracial adoptions among religious persons.  In addition to looking at various denominations, the study examines the effects of "religiosity," as measured by frequency of church attendance, frequency of prayer, and frequency of reading of sacred texts.

The study keys off of research on attitudes towards interracial dating and marriage, which has been tied to religion and religiosity. I found this explanation interesting:
Research on race relations has long substantiated a relationship between one's reported level of religious commitment or "religiosity" and racial attitudes in general.  Yet, despite the broad concensus that a relationship between religiosity and racial attitudes exists, the nature of this relationship is a matter of sharp disagreement.  While some have found that higher levels of religiosity (as typically measured by church attendance) are associated with more negative racial attitudes, [others] contended that the relationship between religiosity and racial prejudice is based on whether an individual is intrinsically or extrinsically oriented to his or her religion.  Put simply, it is argued that while higher levels of religiosity are associated with negative racial attitudes to an extent, the truly devout who have effectively internalized their faith (intrinsic orientation) tend to be less prejudiced than those who merely practice their religion for utilitarian purposes or as a matter of institutional devotion (extrinsic orientation).
But how does this all translate to attitudes toward transracial adoption?  Using the Baylor Religion Survey of 2005 and the General Social Survey of 2006, the researcher focused on transracial adoption. The survey question was as follows: "How do you feel about the following marriage and family related issues . . . adoption a child of a different race?"  The available answers were that the respondent felt is was 1) always wrong; 2) almost always wrong; 3) only wrong sometimes; 4) not wrong at all.

First finding is that over 82% of all respondents -- religious, non-religious, Protestant, Catholic, other -- believed that TRA was not wrong at all.  But there were differing degrees of favorability among religious groups.  Protestants were 6 percent less likely that Catholics and over 10 percent less likely than non-religious people to afferm that TRA is not wrong at all.  The researcher concludes: "While support for TRA appears to be increasing among the population as a whole, Protestants, who constitute a majority of the population, tend to support TRA less than Catholics and most, noticeably, those who are non-religious."  Still, it is important to note that almost 79 percent of Protestants found nothing wrong with adopting a child of a different race.

So why would there be a lower level of approval of TRA among Protestants than other groups?  The author points to three explanation from other researchers.  1) Some conservative Protestant opposition to interracial dating is sometimes based on the idea that race-mixing is biblically wrong; and perhaps that attitude extends beyond interracial dating/marriage to other family relationships; 2) for some, a religious commitment to spiritual or moral purity also translates into a requirement of racial purity; 3) conservative Protestants are more likely to adhere to individualistic, anti-structuralist explanations for inequality and poverty among racial minorities, and tend to focus on dysfunctional family relationships of racial minorities as a primary source of their poverty; they may see adopting children of a different race as somehow enabling irresponsible sexual behavior of racial minorities.  The author suggests that further research needs to be done to examine the "why" question.`

Second interesting finding -- religiosity was a significant predictor for a respondent approving of transracial adoption.  Says the author, "For every point a person moves up on the religiosity index the likelihood that she or he finds nothing wrong with TRA increases by 13 percent."  This actually contradicted the researcher's hypothesis that religiosity would be negatively related to approval of TRA.

The study looked at other variables in addition to religion -- this point stood out for me:  "Those who live in the South, are Protestant, less religious, less educated, older, male, politically conservative, and have lower levels of trust for other races are less likely to approve of TRA."

Note that the study is looking at the attitudes of the general public;  the study doesn't look at parents who have adopted transracially and their religious attitudes.  The author suggests further study of adoptive parents:  "This would allow researchers to identify important distinctions between those who merely approve of TRA publically and those who actually tke the step to engage in TRA."


Anonymous said...

The question is:

What is the point of the study and of your choosing to highlight the study on your blog?

It seems like yet another piece of endless reduction of excrement for the sake of producing a paper.

Theresa said...

To Anonymous,

While I also wonder the impetus behind placing this particular study on the blog...although, I also am fascinated by various topics of how religion and religiosity affect people and their behaviors, perspectives, decisions, etc....I think that your final comment was completely unnecessary and hostile. I, for one, enjoy reading this blog and find it a great source of information and thought provoking topics to consider as a trans-racial adoptive parent.

So, Anonymous, if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all.

malinda said...

Why did I post this? Not very complicated -- my usual criteria:

1. It's current

2. It's about adoption

3. I find it interesting!

Molly said...

I'm a little troubled by how the study is constructed ... they seem to be assuming the only possible objection to TRA is racism.

As a parent in a transracial adoption, I would've had to answer "only wrong sometimes" -- because I think TRA can be a mistake if the adoptive parents aren't committed to supporting their child's racial identity.

Also, the phrasing of the choices is so loaded -- it would've been a lot more neutral if they'd said, "always wrong," "almost always wrong," "almost always OK," and "always OK," instead of the convoluted "only wrong sometimes."