Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Sherry Saggers

Second Advisor

Dr John Duff


Legislative changes during the 1980s and 1990s opened confidential adoption files of the past enabling many adoptees and relinquishing parents to establish contact. This study examines the way in which the meaning of family is constructed by adoptees who have made contact with their birth relatives, and how these constructions were altered after contact. The ways in which biological and social definitions of family are constructed and contested in these settings is explored. Sociological definitions of family are discussed and the gap between ideal notions of 'family' and the lived experience of 'family' is explored. The study focuses on the process by which people are assigned as family. It explores what 'family' means to those involved in the study and the criteria they employ to construct their meanings of 'family'.