A qualitative study of the experiences of kinship “fa’a’amu” parents in Tahiti
: how relationships with fa’a’amu children and birth families impact well-being

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Systems of kinship care exist across cultures and have gained visibility in recent years. In Eastern Oceania (Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia), kinship care is common practice. In Tahiti, it is referred to as “fa’a’amu”, which means “to feed”. Fa’a’amu involves open and informal adoption arrangements between birth parents and kinship parents, oftentimes family members or close friends (Ho Wan 1992; Monléon, 2004). Importantly, children maintain contact with their family of origin across the life-span. This qualitative study is the first to explore the lived experiences of fa’a’amu parents in Tahiti. Specifically, this study examines how fa’a’amu parents experienced relationships with fa’a’amu children and birth parents, and how this may impact their emotional well-being. The sample consisted of 18 fa’a’amu parents (family relatives only) and five key stakeholders. Data were collected through in-depth interviews and analysed using framework analysis. Sharing strong emotional bonds with fa’a’amu children and respectful relationships between fa’a’amu and birth families promoted emotional well-being. Difficulties managing children’s behavioural issues and conflictual relationships with birth parents contributed to emotional distress for fa’a’amu parents.
Date of Award1 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorPolly Radcliffe (Supervisor) & Gail Gilchrist (Supervisor)

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