Families, Relationships and Societies
An international journal of research and debate

Names in adoption law and policy: representations of family, rights and identities

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Jane PilcherAssociate Professor of Sociology at Nottingham Trent University, UK

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Amanda CoffeyProfessor, Deputy Vice Chancellor, and Provost at the University of the West of England, Bristol, UK

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Names have heightened importance in adoption, affecting the identities of individuals who are adopted and adoptive family making. In this article, we use critical discourse analysis to gauge how names, and especially children’s forenames, are addressed in the specificities of legal and policy texts governing and guiding the milieu of people affected by adoption in England. We argue that the inclusions, omissions and opacity of content on names we uncover are outcomes of underlying representations of ‘family’ within the texts, whereby ‘family surnaming’ is constructed as the pre-eminent naming issue in adoption, above children’s forename-based identity rights. Our focus on names in adoption advances sociological understandings of the power of names in representing family relationships and individual identities, and of how official discourses of law and policy can privilege some types of relationships over others, and the rights of some family members over others.

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Jane PilcherAssociate Professor of Sociology at Nottingham Trent University, UK

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Amanda CoffeyProfessor, Deputy Vice Chancellor, and Provost at the University of the West of England, Bristol, UK

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