The purpose of the abstract is to provide a concise and accurate synopsis of key elements of your dissertation. Include the following information (suggested length: 400 words or less):
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- Research topic summary (1-5 sentences)
- Provide a concise summary of your dissertation research topic. Explain the rationale for your study and the gap in the literature or field your dissertation addresses. Indicate your research questions, matching the wording used in your dissertation chapters.
- Research methodology (1-2 sentences)
- Summarize the research methodology used in the study.
- Population and sample (1-2 sentences)
- Describe the population and sample, including high-level demographic information regarding your participant pool. If secondary data was used, describe the data set.
- Data analysis (1-2 sentences)
- Provide a concise summary of your data analysis.
- Findings (1-3 sentences)
- Provide a concise summary of your research findings and conclusion(s). If relevant, you may also briefly note recommended future research associated with your findings.
Tips for developing a quality abstract
- Keep in mind that the abstract is representative of your work. Researchers will review your abstract to determine whether your dissertation is worthy of reading and relevant to their literature review. Employers may review your abstract to learn more about the nature and quality of your doctoral work. The abstract should therefore represent your most polished and well-written work!
- Guidelines for the development of an abstract are in section 2.04 of the APA Publication Manual, 6th edition.
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This page is optional. The dedication is the writer’s acknowledgment indicating his or her appreciation and respect for significant individuals in the writer’s life. The dedication is personal; thus, any individuals named are frequently unrelated to the topic of the dissertation.
Typically, the learner dedicates the work to the one or two individuals who instilled in the learner the value of education and the drive to succeed in educational pursuits. Learners often dedicate dissertations to relatives, immediate family, or significant individuals who have supported them or played a role in their lives.
Note: if the Abstract is two pages long, change the page number of the Dedication to iv.
The acknowledgments differ from the dedication in one significant way: The acknowledgments recognize individuals who have supported the writer’s scholarly efforts as they relate to the dissertation or who have held a role in the writer’s academic career as it relates to the research of the dissertation. This might mean your mentor and committee members, dissertation advisor, online or colloquia faculty, and other support people from _ or other organizations. If you received financial support from fellowships, grants, or other organizational support, it should be noted in this section.
The research topic for this study identified the experiences of single African-American mothers’ relationships with their sons. The study was conducted using a qualitative approach. The main point of Chapter One consists of the background of the study, the need for the study, purpose, and significance of the study, research questions, research design, definitions, limitations and assumptions of the study, and organization of the remainder of the study. Each main point is described in the appropriate section.
Background of the Study
Single parenting is increasingly becoming a common phenomenon in the United States. According to Elliott, Powell, and Brenton (2015), recent statistics showed that single parents raise about half of African-American children. The study also indicated that 70% of single parents were mothers. Johnsen and Friborg (2015) stated that many single-mothers were forced to raise their children without the emotional and financial support from male partners who fathered these children.
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Taking care of the family’s financial needs is a challenging task, but Williams and Smalls (2015) explained that parenting goes beyond that. Parenting also entails understanding the unique needs of one’s children and addressing them in the best way possible. The current study identified the experiences of single African-American mothers’ relationships with their adolescent sons.
How parents experience their relationships with their children depends on so many factors, one of which is the availability of a partner to share the responsibility. According to Ebert et al. (2015), it is the desire of some people to have a normal family system where both parents are involved in co-parenting. However, cases where one parent, for various reasons, is forced to care for a child alone are common in the United States. Slonim (2014) stated that when a mother has to bring up a child without the support of a partner, the socio-economic pressure might be overbearing. Such a parent will not only be expected to provide for the economic needs of the child, but also the emotional and social needs.
Slonim (2014) argued that sometimes the joy of being a parent is lost because of the pain and frustration that one has to go through to ensure these needs are met. Economic factors, such as the high cost of living forces some of the low-income earners to take two or three jobs to make ends meet (Cooper & Norcross, 2016). In the case of single female parents, there may be limited time to help the child’s social and emotional development. These experiences may affect the relationship between single-mothers and their children.
Over the past years, single parenting and its impact on parents and children have been a topic of interest in the field of psychology. According to Wu, Appleman, Salazar, and Ong (2015), various factors, such as divorce, separation, having a child out of wedlock, and death are some of the leading causes of single parenting in the country. Maynard, Salas-Wright, and Vaughn (2015) believed the phenomenon was likely to become more common as women become increasingly independent economically.
The economic independence of women is one of the reasons why many of them do not fear having a divorce or separating from their partners whenever they feel frustrated in the marriage (Maudry-Beverley, 2014). It means that the phenomenon is likely to become more common shortly than it is currently. According to Cohn (2016), many women find themselves in this situation of single parenting when they are not fully prepared for it. Many single parents think that parenting only consists of meeting the basic needs of a child (Snyder, 2016). However, they soon realize they have both economic and socio-emotional burdens to address as they care for their children as single parents.
One of the biggest challenges of single parenting is raising adolescents. According to Leech (2016), adolescence is the most sensitive stage of development. At this stage, a child is trying to understand their personality and self in the path towards adulthood. Even if the experience of parenting the child had been enjoyable all along, things are likely to change at this sensitive stage of development. Parenting a teenage son as a single mother can be overwhelming. While financial needs are met, there is a lack of socio-emotional preparedness that emerges as the phenomenon (Cohn, 2016; Snyder, 2016). Because of the complexity of this relationship within this context, this topic became of interest to the researcher.
The phenomenon is of interest to the researcher because of several factors. Within the community where the researcher lives, single parenting has become common and statistics show that it is likely to become worse (Leech, 2016). Based on personal experiences, the researcher has witnessed the emotional pain single-mothers experience when caring for their adolescent sons without the support of their partners. Some of these mothers consider taking their own lives, which may indicate they are not having pleasant experiences caring for these children (Leech, 2016).
Others opt to take their children to their grandparents to help them with parenting. Leman (2015) explained that some of these single-mothers even consider abandoning their families because they are no longer able to withstand the pressure. Some mothers who are have not gone through the experience of single parenting adolescents feel they can cope (Johnsen & Friborg, 2015). The same may not apply to married women.
Married women may feel as though it is not crucial to walk out of their marriages so they can raise their children alone. However, they soon realize the responsibility was not as easy as they had previously thought. In most cases, it is often too late to reverse the situation, especially when the separation leads to divorce, and the divorce process is complete (Benner, Boyle, & Sadler, 2016). Married women may find themselves in a situation they had not imagined before.
The findings of this study may be helpful to single-mothers who may be considering a divorce. It may be important for these parents to have this knowledge before separating so they can avoid the unnecessary pain of parenting a child alone. The topic of interest is complex, and to date has been understood by applying concepts of various theories.
Scholars investigating the socio-economic challenges of African-Americans, in the United States, have done so through the lens of Black Psychology Theory (Barnett & Scaramella, 2013). It is one thing to be a single mother, and another to be a single African-American mother. Determining the experience of these single African-American mothers is critical because it helps to understand the challenges they face when parenting adolescent sons.
Some of these single mothers are often overwhelmed by the challenges they face parenting their adolescent sons. They abandon their parenting responsibilities to teachers and close relatives hoping that when they meet the financial needs, all other needs will be addressed by other members of society. The researcher will determine how these challenges can be addressed in the country. The goal is to identify ways in which single African-American mothers can successfully parent their adolescent sons despite the expected challenges.
Need for the Study
Past studies have explored possible causes of single parenting, socio-economic impact, and how the affected individuals deal with their situation (Weinrath, Donatelli, and Murchison, 2016). The current study identified the experiences of single African-American single-mothers’ relationship with their adolescent sons. The findings of the current study may fill a gap in the literature. According to Irvine, Drew, and Sainsbury (2013), studies indicated that over 25% of African-American females, aged 22-44 were single-mothers, while only nine percent of white females were single-mothers (Cooper & Norcross, 2016).
The statistics showed the problem of single parenting is more common among African-American females than among white females (Evans, 2014). Finding appropriate ways of improving the experience of these parents may be necessary as the problem becomes more prevalent among the targeted group (Cohn, 2016).
Previous studies have discussed how these parents cope with various socioeconomic and emotional challenges when parenting their adolescent sons. These studies show that the majority of single-mothers prefer having girls to boys. Some single-mothers believe it is more challenging for parent-adolescent boys because of their rebellious nature (Johnsen & Friborg, 2015). As such, they prefer parenting adolescent girls to adolescent boys.
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They feel that they can offer the girls guidance based on their (single mothers) experience when they were at that age. The previous studies also show that the negative attitude some of these parents have may not only worsen relationships but also deny adolescents the affection needed from the parent. Cooper and Norcross (2016) argue that this problem may be aggravated by a lack of parenting skills. Being a mother may not necessarily mean that one can deal with the emotional needs of a child.
The existing studies do not address the experience of single African-American mothers of parenting adolescent sons. Based on the findings of this study, it may be possible to fill a gap in professional knowledge by informing the field of psychology. The unique emotional challenges explained in this study can be critical to counselors whose services are sometimes needed by these single-mothers. Identifying African-American single mothers ‘ experiences of their relationship with their adolescent sons resulted in findings that can be used to help parents manage their situation, especially from an emotional angle.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the study was to identify the experiences of single African-American mothers’ relationships with their adolescent sons. Snyder (2016) identified various challenges single African-American mothers experience and how it affects their ability to care for their adolescent children to become responsible and successful adults. Doody and Noonan (2013) explained that although the problem has been in existence since the days of the slave trade and slavery in the United States, the issue has not been given proper attention, even among scholars. Findings from the current study may be used to inform the field of psychology of the experiences of single African-American mothers’ relationship with their adolescent sons.
The parent-child relationship is defined by numerous factors. Some parents are often successful in developing a close relationship with their children (Slonim, 2014). Parents may discuss anything that directly affects the relationship and the family in general. In other cases, the relationship is strained, making it difficult for the two to have meaningful discussions about personal issues relevant to the other party.
Cooper and Norcross (2016) argued that it is often easy for a female-child to open up about personal issues to her mother than an adolescent son. It is also easy for female parents to talk about sexual health and sexuality with their adolescent daughters, a very important topic for adolescents (Williams, Ryan, Davis-Kean, McLoyd, & Schulenberg, 2017). Such close relationships create pleasurable experiences for the two.
The same cannot be said for single-mothers parenting adolescent sons.
Identifying the experiences of single African-American mothers’ relationships with their adolescent sons is a topic that was appropriate for study. The communication between single-mothers and their adolescent sons was an area of concern, specifically as it related to discussing sex. Snyder (2016) believed that although American society has made significant steps in fighting stereotypes and traditional concepts made it taboo for mothers to talk about sex with their sons, it is still not easy for mothers to address sex-related problems with their sons. Sometimes they know the topic is necessary, but they are reluctant to discuss it. The significance of the study is discussed in the next section. The information obtained from this study will address the knowledge gaps in this field.
Significance of the Study
It was important to discuss the significance of this study to the wider field of the psychology community who have an interest in the topic and to specific individuals who may want to apply the findings and recommendations made. Discussing specific factors that influence single African-American mothers’ experiences of their relationships with adolescent sons may provide important findings of parenting (Williams et al., 2017).
The findings may not only be beneficial to single African-American mothers but to all parents in the U.S. Parents may understand how to develop positive relationships with their sons despite the challenges they may have to face. The parents may recognize what they have to avoid because of the possible negative impact on the relationship. It is expected that findings from this study can be used to enhance parenting skills, specifically when it comes to the issue of parents creating a positive relationship with their children to ensure that they can easily discuss challenges they are having, both at school and at home. The schools will benefit when such a positive relationship between a parent and a child is created (Cooper & Norcross, 2016).
When parents can solve the socio-emotional challenges of their children, chances of such students excelling in school are improved. Study findings may also be used to support theories used to guide the study.
The findings of this study may also help in determining the applicability of some of the theories developed over the recent past. Black Psychology Theory and family systems theory has gained popularity among scholars conducting studies on parenting and the lifestyles of African-Americans living in the U.S. (Williams & Smalls, 2015). Black psychology and family systems theories were frameworks used to identify the experience of single African-American mother’s relationships with their adolescent.
The current study used a generic qualitative design to identify the experiences of single African-American mothers. The findings and results of the study were based on themes that emerged based on participant responses. The themes were used to answer the research question, which is listed in the following section.
How do single African-American Mothers experience their relationship with their adolescent sons?
Definition of Terms
In this study, the term adolescence referred to a development stage from childhood to adulthood (Schneider & Coleman, 2018). It is a critical developmental stage when a child tries to develop self-identity on the path toward becoming an adult. Adolescence can be understood as the period of life when an individual is 10 to 19-years-old (Parent, Jones, Forehand, Cuellar, & Shoulberg, 2013). However, the current study focused on mid to late adolescence (the age of approximately 14-19) because there might be major differences between younger and older adolescents (Varner & Mandara, 2013).
In this paper, African-American referred to an ethnic group in the U.S. with partial or total ancestry from Africa (Baudin, Croix, & Gobbi, 2015). In this study, it referred to the African-American population in the country.
In this study, the term communal referred to a system that brings together members of a society in a shared responsibility (Chetty, Hendren, Kline, & Saez, 2014). It is the spirit of collectivism, where members of the society feel they bear some responsibility for ensuring that everything happens, as per expectations. In this case, it referred to the feeling by some people that they are obliged to help others in every little way, especially single parents when parenting adolescents.
In this study, the term experience referred to an encounter that left a lasting impression on a person (Zinn, Hondagneu-Sotelo, & Messner, 2016). In this case, it referred to the encounter that single African-American mothers have when parenting their adolescent sons. The study identified the experiences of single African-American mothers’ relationships with their adolescent sons. The phenomenon was studied by interviewing single African-American mothers in this qualitative study.
Within this study, the term parenting referred to the process of supporting and promoting the physical, social, intellectual, and emotional development of a person, from infancy to adulthood (Manning, Brown, & Stykes, 2014). The study was not focused on the process of parenting itself, but the experience that single African-American mothers had when doing so, especially of their relationship with their adolescent sons.
Within this paper, the term racism referred to discrimination or prejudice that is directed against an individual or a group of people because of the misconception that their race is inferior (Donnelly, 2015). The problem of racial superiority is common in the U.S. and often has a serious impact on the affected group.
In the paper, the term relationship was used mainly to denote the emotional bond, the feeling of duty, and the obligations that mothers and sons experience towards each other (Elliott et al., 2015; Wilson et al., 2016).
Single African-American mothers
The term was utilized to refer to women who are Americans, but have ancestors of African origins; have a son; and raise that son without the assistance of a partner, such as a son’s father (Barajas, 2011; Choi & Jackson, 2011).
In this paper, single-mother referred to a scenario where a mother has to support and promote the physical, social, intellectual, and emotional development of a child, from infancy to adulthood in the absence of the father (spring, 2016). The inclusion criterion was any mother who, now the data was collected, was parenting the child alone. Some of them were never married, while others were divorced.
The study identified the experiences of single African-American mothers. In this section, it was important to discuss the methodology, approach, and design used in the study. The most appropriate methodology for this study was the qualitative research method. This method is appropriate because it will enable the researcher to obtain a detailed explanation as to why certain events happen in a given manner.
According to Percy, Kostere, and Kostere (2015), although quantitative research makes it possible to use mathematical tools to quantify a given issue under investigation, it is often limited when it comes to explaining why a phenomenon happened in a given manner. Bernard (2013) notes that this weakness is addressed by using qualitative research. Unlike the quantitative method that focuses on determining the magnitude of a given issue, qualitative research goes deeper in seeking to determine factors that led to a given event.
A generic qualitative research approach was used to facilitate an investigation of a given phenomenon, and to describe how to address its undesirable impacts or characteristics (Johnsen & Friborg, 2015). The generic qualitative research approach, as described by Percy, Kostere, and Kostere (2015), was used to identify the experiences of a single African-American mother and their adolescent sons. Qualitative data made it possible to identify these experiences from individual perspectives, based on various socio-economic factors (Cooper & Norcross, 2016).
Thematic analysis is appropriate for a generic qualitative study, as Percy, Kostere, and Kostere (2015) observe. Data analysis was conducted using the method of coding to identify themes in the transcribed data (AlYahmady & Alabri, 2013). The approach will be appropriate when investigating the experience of single African American mothers when parenting adolescent sons.
Data were collected from participants through interviews, as described in chapter three. When identifying single African-American mothers’ relationships with their adolescent sons, it was necessary to allow each of the participants to describe the unique personal experiences without limiting them to a structured format of answering the questions (Ehde, Dillworth, & Turner, 2014).
Assumptions and Limitations
The generic qualitative approach was utilized to conduct this study, which consisted of assumptions that were considered before the selection of this design. Identifying the limitations of this methodology, design, and the study was also important, as they had implications for a variety of factors related to the findings of the study. There were several assumptions and limitations made. According to Evans (2014), it is important to identify assumptions and limitations in the study to help those who may need to use it to inform their policies. These factors can be used to help others understand the relevance of the study and its applicability in various settings. As such, care was taken to ensure these factors were explained in clear terms.
Qualitative research uses a holistic approach to identify the experiences, behaviors, and emotions of an experience (Creswell, 2013). In social sciences, it may not be possible to control different factors relevant to the study. Leman (2015) explained that social scientists could only make assumptions because of the inability to control the actions and decisions of human beings. The ontological assumptions were that participants would provide accurate information during the semi-structured interviews regarding their experiences of the relationships with their adolescent sons, which may be different from the reality of another individual (Corbin & Strauss, 2015).
One of the primary assumptions made in this study is that single African-American mothers have similar experiences of their relationships with their adolescent sons if they share similar socioeconomic factors. According to Leman (2015), the experiences of single-mothers’ relationships with an adolescent son varied and depended on many factors, such as the discipline level of the child, academic excellence, social behavior, the economic status of the family, among many other factors. The level of diversity of this experience is beyond the scope of the study. As such, it was necessary to consider the ontological assumption, among others, when conducting this research.
In a qualitative study, the researcher must bring their whole self into the process of exploring a phenomenon to find the answers to the posed research questions (Corbin & Strauss, 2015). The use of semi-structured interviews consisted of interaction with participants, therefore, an epistemological assumption was made that the researcher and participants were dependent on one another for accurate data collection. Each interview was developed by the conversation and interaction throughout the interview, demonstrating the dependency of data collection on the researcher is interviewing skills and interaction with the participants.
Axiological assumptions required the consideration of the researcher’s values during the study. By Corbin and Strauss (2008), it was necessary to consider the personal values of the researcher to avoid undue influence during the study. The researcher acknowledged personal values through self-reflection and recognized biases that could have affected the findings. The researcher is a single African-American mother of an adolescent son and realized that differences may have existed between personal and participants’ experiences.
Some of the assumptions made in this study were based on certain aspects of various theories. One of the most important theoretical assumptions was that Black Psychology Theory is relevant to all African-Americans in the country. According to Finer and Zolna (2016), the theory is relevant to the majority of African-American citizens, especially in places of work and other social settings. There are psychological consequences of being African-American in the U.S. Abramovitz (2018) explains that being a young black male in the United States means that one has to contend with victimization and stereotypes.
For instance, there is a perception that the majority of young black males are drug addicts, drug peddlers, and violent. The country has made impressive steps in confronting racism and other factors that divide the country into groups based on one’s skin color (Spring, 2016). In 2008, the election of the first African-American U.S. president was seen as a major step toward creating a society that was tolerant of cultural diversity. However, Leman (2015) argued the problem of racism was still a real problem in the U.S. various segments of society.
Being an African-American is still not easy for students and job seekers. According to Abramovitz (2018), many employers are more willing to hire Whites than Blacks even in cases where the Black has better qualifications for the job. Many African-American have to deal with these realities. As such, the assumption made it easy for the researcher to believe that all African-American mothers faced the same problem.
It may be possible the single-mother is financially empowered and may not have problems meeting the family’s economic needs. However, financial empowerment does not shield her from the psychological consequences of being African-American (Spring, 2016). Such experiences may have direct consequences on the relationship these parents have with their adolescent sons. The assumptions previously discussed were considered before as well as throughout the research process.
A generic qualitative design allowed for a method of identifying participants’ experiences with their adolescent sons. It was anticipated the findings of this qualitative study would contribute to the body of literature and the field of psychology by identifying the experiences of single African-American mothers’ relationships with their adolescent sons.
Identifying and discussing limitations was critical, especially for those who may be interested in using the study to inform the field of psychology. The research question was, “How do single African-American Mother experience their relationship with their adolescent sons?” Design flow limitation was the first category discussed in this section. One of the major limitations was that data was only collected from participants residing in Florida (Abramovitz, 2018).
Single African-American mothers’ experience of their relationship with their adolescent sons is a phenomenon that needs to be discussed at a national level. It is not unique to the state of Florida. However, it was not possible to collect data from the entire U.S. population.
Collecting data from all the states in the country would require resources and time, which were beyond the scope of the study. As such, data could only be collected from a manageable sample of single African-American mothers who resided in the state of Florida. The findings from this qualitative study may have limited generalizability to the general population. Although it would have been more appropriate to widen the scope of data collection, the limited time and resources meant that only a small number of people within a specific geographic region could participate in the study.
Data used in this were collected from single African-American mothers. Leman (2015) advised that when collecting data, it is critical to ensure the right people were investigated. The most appropriate people to provide information about the experience are the single-mothers themselves. They understand what they experience when parenting their adolescents. No one can purport to understand this experience better than individuals who are directly affected.
As such, one of the main factors that will have to be considered when selecting participants is that they have to be single African American mothers parenting an adolescent son. However, these criteria limit the ability of the researcher to understand what other members of society feel about the issue under investigation.
Evans (2014) argued that sometimes it might be necessary to get the perspective of everyone involved. While the views of single-mothers were critical for the study, it would also be vital to understanding what adolescent sons have to say about their relationship with the parents. Although the study did not focus on the experience of adolescent sons and their relationship with their single-mothers, understanding their views and thoughts on this issue would be valuable.
It would provide further justification or understanding of the issues that are explained by the single-mothers. It would also make it possible to understand any misunderstandings or mistrust that may exist between a mother and a child (Evans, 2014). The genesis of some of the complaints and frustrations that parents had with their children could have been identified if these adolescents were to be interviewed in an ethnographic study. Unfortunately, that was not possible.
In this section, the primary focus discussed things an expert reader might expect the study to investigate but were actually beyond the scope of the study. One of the most critical areas of study the researcher intentionally decided not to investigate was the experience of adolescents and their relationships with their mothers. Adolescent sons experience many challenges when parented by single-mothers (Abramovitz, 2018).
At this critical stage of their development, they need their fathers to emulate. They need both parents to support them both emotionally and financially. Spring (2016) observed there were issues that adolescent sons cannot discuss with their mothers, but can share with their fathers. When raised by single-mothers only, they are forced to keep these issues to themselves. Some of them are forced to consult with their peers, which makes it easy for them to be misled.
Others have to deal with the problem of having constantly absent mothers, due to the necessity of the employment. Briefly identifying their experiences before identifying the experiences of single-mothers may have been a consideration. However, that was considered out of scope in this study. The researcher considered it an important area of investigation that future scholars should take seriously to expand knowledge in this field.
Organization of the Remainder of the Study
Chapter one provided a detailed discussion of the background of the research and the problem the study addressed. The first section provided the background of the problem and the need for the study. The next section discussed the need and purpose of the study. The significance of the research was also discussed to justify the project. The research question and study design were outlined. Assumptions, limitations, and definitions of terms were also described in this chapter.
The dissertation has five chapters. Chapter one provided the background and purpose of the study. Chapter Two provides a detailed review of the literature. Chapter Three describes the method used to collect and analyze data, while Chapter Four presents the analysis of data collected from the participants. Chapter Five concludes this dissertation and provides findings and recommendations.
In this chapter, a detailed review of the existing literature was provided. The chapter starts with a description of the methods of research used to obtain peer-reviewed literature. The chapter then provides a detailed review of existing theories. Black psychology theory and Systems Theory were used to support the study. Factors that influence parenting of adolescents, such as culture, social status, gender, level of discipline and academic excellence of a child, religious support, government support, personal relationship between mother and child are also discussed. The chapter provided a synthesis of research findings and a critique of previous research methods then concluded with a summary.
Methods of Searching
The literature review was a critical element of the study. According to Benner et al. (2016), when conducting research, it is important to review findings made by other scholars. The process not only provided background information but also identified gaps in the existing knowledge. Sources used in this chapter were obtained from peer-reviewed journal articles. _ University’s library was used to assist to locate journal articles and other sources.
An online search also made it possible to find current articles on the research topic. Key-words such as “single parenting, African-American mothers, and parenting adolescents,” made it possible for the researcher to locate relevant materials for the study. Some of the databases that proved useful included Google Scholar, Journal Store (Jstor), Academic Search, Pro-Quest, and EBSCO Information Services. The databases were used to locate recently published journal articles about single parenting, especially among African-American women.
Theoretical Orientation for the Study
It was necessary to analyze specific theories relevant to this study. According to Brody et al. (2014), theoretical orientation for the study offers a researcher a basis upon which ideas should be developed. Single African-American female’s experience of being mothers to their adolescent sons can effectively be identified by different theories and concepts (Dörnyei & Ushioda, 2013). Two theoretical concepts were found to be relevant to the research topic. They include black psychology theory and systems theory. Each theory was analyzed and used to support the study.
Black Psychology Theory
One of the emerging theories used to describe the African-American social setting is the black psychology theory. According to Elliott et al. (2015), black psychology theory explained the beliefs, behavior, attitude, interactions, and feelings of African-Americans. The theory has developed over time, and as observed by Barnett and Scaramella (2013), was based on the social environment of Black Americans. Every American of goodwill would champion for a society that is united and committed to a common goal, as defined by the founding fathers (Jarvis, George, & Holland, 2013).
As Cooper (2013) noted, black psychology theory explained why African-Americans are disadvantaged when compared to other races in the United States. According to Jarvis et al. (2013), citizens desire to act in a way that would bring the society together, irrespective of the demographical differences that exist. However, Pierre and Jackson (2014) stated that it was unfortunate that having such a perfect society was not possible.
Individuals tend to identify with their gender, race, religion, and other demographical factors. Haefner (2014) believed that every time individuals narrow down their principles to specific factors such as race, they ceased to be patriotic Americans who are committed to promoting a unified society where everyone is treated with respect. Haefner’s (2014) beliefs may not accurately reflect the experiences of African-Americans.
African-Americans often find themselves on the defensive whenever the issue of racism emerges. According to Brannon, Markus, and Taylor (2015), American society is still divided along racial lines, with Blacks considered inferior to Whites. The racial division emerged from the history of Africans in America. Most Africans came to the United States during the colonial era as slaves (Emmen et al., 2013). American society highly cherished the caste system by that time, and it meant that Blacks could not climb the social ladder through any means, primarily due to their skin pigmentation. When the country gained independence, slavery was abolished, but the perception towards Black Americans never changed (Johnsen & Friborg, 2015).
It took several decades for African-American men to gain the right to vote in this country. However, that did not help in countering the negative perception that Whites had towards Blacks (Duffy, Blustein, Diemer, & Autin, 2016).
Blacks who emigrated from Africa to the United States since independence did little to change the perceptions that the society had towards them (Percy, Kostere, & Kostere, 2015). Most Blacks were job seekers willing to do anything for the least possible pay. It strengthened the narrative that Black can only be servants (Pauker, Apfelbaum, & Spitzer, 2015). Currently, American society still seems to be segregated along racial lines.
System Theory, developed by Bertalanffy (1968), is also relevant for the proposed study. According to Bertalanffy (1969), some models, laws, and principles apply to generalized systems, irrespective of the nature of their elements, kind, relations, or forces between them. A family unit is one example of a system that could be guided by principles, as explained in this theory. According to Brown (2016), every member of the family has a role to play and the experience that one gets largely depends on how well each person accomplishes their responsibilities. Under normal circumstances, it is often expected that every member will meet the expectations of the rest of the family members. When that happens, everyone will be satisfied within the family setting.
In a family-run by a single mother, one must understand the uniqueness of the burden that she has to bear. When both parents are present, there is always a shared responsibility (Bendassolli, 2013). Even if one of the parents is not fully employed, they may offer emotional support to one another as they seek to provide the best environment for their family. For a single-mother, the benefit of sharing parenting responsibility is lost (AlYahmady & Alabri, 2013).
It is expected that she will meet all the material needs of the child (Hanson, 2014). Normally, at one moment she may be overwhelmed. She may fail to meet the financial expectations of the child. In other cases, she may not be present to offer the child emotional support and guidance because of the need to work to meet the family’s financial needs. Any such failure on the part of the parent, as explained in this theory, may affect the entire family system. As a result, the child may easily engage in socially unacceptable practices (Clinard, 2015). When that happens, the mother may be affected negatively.
Review of the Literature
Parenting is a widely studied topic and some of the concepts that were investigated in this project have been addressed by other scholars. Barnett and Scaramella (2013) explained that socio-economic and political changes in society meant that some realities have changed. According to Varner and Mandara (2013), a century ago, women in the United States were not allowed to vote, and only a few of them were active in the corporate world.
However, that has changed. The socio-economic and political changes meant that experiences a single African-American woman had when raising a son in 1930 were different from that in 2018 (Williams & Smalls, 2015). Although the study has been explored, these changes mean that revisiting the topic is important to understand the positive steps that have been made and areas that still need the attention of the society (Pachankis et al., 2015). The literature review section reviews findings made by other scholars who investigated related topics.
Factors That Define Parenting Experience
According to Ford and Moore (2013), various factors defined the experiences that a single African-American mothers go through when parenting adolescent sons. However, existing literature does not provide a detailed explanation of the experience of these single-mothers of their relationship with their adolescent sons. It is challenging for a single mother to care for an adolescent son alone, even if she is financially empowered. However, it is important to recognize that some single African-American mothers go through more traumatizing experiences than White single-mothers do. In this section, it was necessary to identify specific factors that defined the parenting experience.
Single Parenting in the United States
According to recent statistics, single parenting is becoming a common phenomenon in the U.S. Williams and Smalls (2015) argued that single parenting may be caused by divorce, separation, incarceration of one of the partners, or death of a partner. According to Irvine et al. (2013), the primary causes of single parenting in the country are divorce and separation of the partners. Barnett and Scaramella (2013) argued that now more than ever, many marriages end up in divorce before their fifth year.
The phenomenon is not unique, but the rate at which American marriages are ending in divorce or separation is concerning, as Barnett and Scaramella (2013) observed. The statistics show that the number of children living with an unmarried mother rose consistently since the 1960s. In 1960, less than 10% of children were raised with unmarried mothers. The number has significantly increased to 24% in 2010 (Blankstein, Noguera, Kelly, & Tutu, 2016).
Whites are the least affected group, although the problem is also becoming prevalent among the White race. In 1960, about 9% of white children were raised by unmarried mothers, as shown in the statistics below. The number has more than doubled to 19% in 2010 (Johnsen & Friborg, 2015). Hispanics are also experiencing a similar problem. In 1978, about 18% of Hispanic children were raised by single mothers. The number is expected to increase as cases of divorce are on the rise.
The social problem of single parenting affects African-American mothers more than any other population in the United States. Since the 1960s, the number of African-American children raised by single-mothers has been more than twice the country’s average (Cooper & Norcross, 2016). In 1960, less than 10% of all American children were raised by single mothers. At that time, 20% of African-American children were under the care of single-mothers (Atzaba-Poria, Deater-Deckard, & Bell, 2014).
In 1990, 54% of African-American minors were parented by single-mothers. At that time, the country’s single-parent average was 22%. As Leech (2016) explained, the problem is not as prevalent today as it was in the 1990s, but Blacks are still the group most negatively impacted. In 2010, 50% of African-American children were parented by single-mothers, while the country’s average was 24% (Benner et al., 2016). The prevalence of this problem among African-Americans made it necessary to narrow down the study to this group because it is the most impacted.
Studies show that one of the leading causes of divorce and separation in the U.S. is infidelity. According to Stinson (2013), modern technologies, especially the growing popularity of smartphones and other communication gadgets and software have made it easy for couples to trace activities and determine if one is unfaithful. The rate at which men are cheating on their wives has not changed much, according to a study conducted by Nobles (2013). However, it is easier than ever for wives to determine if they are cheating. On the other hand, the rate at which women are cheating on their spouses has increased significantly in the modern society, compared to a century ago (Johnsen & Friborg, 2015).
The trend of female infidelity is attributed to the empowerment of women, especially those in the corporate world. Women spend a lot of time at work, and mingle with so many people, making it easy for them to get into illicit affairs (Williams & Smalls, 2015). Still, it does not mean that women are more promiscuous than men. The statistics only show that women empowerment has created conditions where women can easily cheat on their partners.
The emergence of social media platforms is another factor that is straining relationships. According to a report by Brown (2016), social media can be very addictive. Some people cannot spend more than 30 minutes of their free time without visiting Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and WhatsApp. They are so addicted to social media that they no longer have time for their families (Jeynes, 2015). Traditionally, couples were expected to have family time together after work to discuss fundamental issues, such as the academic progress of children, financial status of the family, challenges the couple encounters, and related topics (Wang & Kenny, 2014).
However, that is no longer the case. After work, many couples spend time on social media sharing with friends and family members. The two may be physically close, but there is no connection because of the time they spend chatting with others miles away. One partner may need the attention of the other, but it may not be easy to get it because of the obsession with social media. Leech (2016) explained that in such instances, a rift will emerge between the couples and they will find it difficult to stay together. The outcome of such undesirable situations is a separation or divorce.
Social networking sites not only distract couples from giving their partners the attention they need but also promote vices dangerous to the unity of a family. According to Haefner (2014), it is easier for one to make sexual advances on a colleague after work than when having a face-to-face meeting. Those who are shy find social media a perfect platform for seduction (Cooper & Norcross, 2016). When a partner finds such compromising messages on their partner’s social media account, the relationship may be strained.
In other cases, a partner may be attracted to or enticed by a colleague who reaches out to them through social media. Such cases are common when the romance and attention are lacking in the family. When such individuals realize that someone is willing to give them the attention they need, they can easily compromise their marriage vows (Doody & Noonan, 2013). When infidelity occurs, the fate of the family is uncertain.
The emergence of hook-up sites seeking to connect men and women seeking love or casual relationships has worsened the problem. Ashley Madison, Adult Friend Finder, and Fling.com are some of the popular sites people visit when they realize the romance they need is lacking at home (Hajar, 2016). When a partner starts seeking love and attention from outside the family, chances are high that the relationship may soon end.
The increased incidence of single parenting is often blamed on the empowerment of women. In the past, women were forced to endure physical, emotional, and verbal abuse from their husbands (Stinson, 2013). They had to depend solely on their husbands to provide for their families. The love for their children and the fear of the unknown would make them withstand all the abuses for the sake of having a stable family (Doody & Noonan, 2013).
However, that is no longer the case. Some women can now afford to lead independent lives without the financial support of their husbands. Women are academically empowered and understand their rights in a family setting (Harris, Sutherland, & Hutchinson, 2013). As such, whenever women feel their dignity is compromised and their love is taken for granted, they do not hesitate to move out of the relationship (Ledgerton, 2013). With the current favorable laws that compel men to provide financial support to their children after separation or divorce, the fear of the unknown is always addressed. It means that women no longer fear leading single lives.
The increasing relevance of education and the need for economic empowerment in American society results in some women to disregard the need for life-long partners. The problem is majorly affecting the middle-class (Leech, 2016). These single women spend a lot of time at school, seeking to gain relevant skills that would enable them to achieve success in the corporate world (Doody & Noonan, 2013). Once they start working, they have a focus on achieving career success. They spend most of their time working and amassing wealth. When they are in their early to mid-thirties, they realize they need to have families.
At this stage, single women take different approaches to achieve the goals they desire. Some make a deliberate choice to have children and lead the life of a single-mother (Hess & Henig, 2015). They feel that with their financial might, they can support their families without having a male partner. These single women believe that being committed to a partner may limit their ability to advance their careers (Ebert et al., 2015).
They do not want to be controlled by a partner who will demand to know what she is doing in every instance. Another group, as Brown (2016) explained, opts to get married and settle down with a chosen partner. However, along the way, they realize they cannot withstand a life where every action they take is subject to scrutiny. Such individuals quickly find their ways out of their relationships, opting to care for their children as single-mothers.
The law is clear about the need for men to support their children, whether after a divorce or when paternity has been established. According to Wang and Kenny (2014), a woman raising a son as a single parent should get regular financial support from the child’s father to meet the necessary needs. The problem is that sometimes implementing the law is not easy. Brown (2016) explained that cases have been witnessed where some men disappear, never to be seen again after their divorce.
Others consider resigning from their formal jobs to take manual tasks where it would be difficult to track down their earnings (Milkie, Nomaguchi, & Denny, 2015). Many succeed in avoiding the financial responsibility of caring for their children, especially if the mother is given full custody. In such cases, the responsibility of providing for the children falls on the mother.
Single-mothers suddenly realize the law they expected to protect them is not very effective in doing so (Katz, 2015). They have to budget for the little resources they have to ensure the needs of the family are met. However, the American system is not as favorable to women as it is to men (citation). Similarly, when the woman is an African-American, the experience is worse.
Culture is one of the most important factors that define the approach of parenting. As Haefner (2014) explained, the United States is one of the most demographically diverse countries in the world. Institutions, such as technology, schools, workplace environments, and media have tried to break the cultural barrier (Wang & Kenny, 2014). However, Stinson (2013) noted that different social groups have different practices based on their backgrounds.
Culture is a major concern when raising an adolescent son. Most of the African cultures prohibit a son from discussing sex-related issues with the mother. For some, it is a taboo for the two to engage in such conversations (Williams & Smalls, 2015). Although U.S. society is motivated by education to eradicate such beliefs, it is still uncommon to find an African-American adolescent son sharing sex-related issues with their mothers. The inability of sons to discuss sex with their mothers may result in youth finding alternative ways of solving their problems.
The best alternative in the absence of a trusted male adult would-be colleagues at school. The problem is that these colleagues also have no idea how the problem should be addressed (Doody & Noonan, 2013). However, that does not stop colleagues at school from proposing solutions, some of which may have serious consequences. When the child is exposed to harm, the mother will be subjected to the trauma of finding a solution to the problem (Tayler & Price, 2016).
It is even more frustrating when these parents realize that problems their children encounter are that which the culture limits them from discussing (Jeynes, 2015). Some mothers are forced to find trusted male adults to address the problem. Knowing the problem that one’s child is going through, but lacking the capacity to address it because of cultural limitations, can be irritating and a source of frustration.
Single African-American mother’s experience of their relationship with their adolescent sons is directly affected by the culture the society embraces. According to Cohn (2016), parents are often discouraged, based on the culture that many have embraced in the country, from discussing the financial challenges they encounter to meeting the family’s financial needs with their children. In some cases, children may seek resolutions without parental approval.
There is always the fear the child may opt-out of school as a way of lessening the burden. As such, the majority of these single-mothers suffer in silence. They go to great lengths just to ensure they meet the needs of their family. Sometimes, the son may become very demanding. They want to enjoy the same benefits as their friends, unaware of the challenges their friends encounter. Some of these demands may affect the relationship between a mother and a son (Leman, 2015).
If the son’s demands are not met, the son may feel that the mother is not concerned enough to address his needs, just like other parents do. On the other hand, if a parent sacrifices other important things to meet that particular need, there is always frustration, especially when the mother has to make extra effort to earn more income for the family.
Social status is one of the crucial factors that define the parenting experience of single African-American mothers caring for their adolescent sons. In American society, the ability of an individual to provide for the family is important (Ford & Moore, 2013).
The problem is worsened for those in urban communities, where the cost of living is very expensive (Wang & Kenny, 2014). In wealthier communities, single African-American mothers who are financially empowered can meet most of the needs of their children. Whenever they realize their adolescent sons need a mentor, they can easily make arrangements to ensure they can meet the right people who can guide them through life. Such children, although they lack the direct emotional support of a father, lead a relatively normal life. They feel that their single-mother is capable of parenting them and there is always a sense of admiration.
As Stinson (2013) observed, it does not mean all children raised in wealthy neighborhoods are disciplined and successful in their academics. However, they are offered a better opportunity to facilitate their success. The wealthy single-mother may have the occasional emotional pain of having to raise the son alone (Spores, 2013). Nevertheless, there is always a sense of pride and satisfaction when they realize that they are succeeding to care for their children without any support. It gives them a sense of overcoming challenges associated with single parenting.
The experience of low-income single-mothers is completely different from that of the wealthy. Most low-income mothers have to take several jobs a day to make ends meet (Doody & Noonan, 2013). They leave early in the morning and come back late at night to ensure that basic needs are met. Snyder (2016) explained that such parents rarely have time to spend with their children. They believe that providing for their families is their primary responsibility, hoping that teachers will help in offering emotional support to their children. In most cases, teachers can’t provide emotional support and personal attention to their students, especially in public schools where the population is relatively high and the pay is poor (Jeynes, 2015). Other factors may also impact the experiences of single-mothers.
The neighborhood where such families reside also exposes these children to all manner of dangers. Drug trafficking and abuse, trade-in contraband goods, robbery, burglary, and gang-related activities are common in such areas. Adolescent boys are always the worst affected groups by such gang-related crime (Ford & Moore, 2013). When adolescent boys lack the fatherly guidance they need and are constantly strained financially, they find solace in gangs.
Adolescents may begin abusing and smuggling drugs without the knowledge of their parents (Elish-Piper, 2013). If interventions are not made, they may join dangerous criminal gangs, committing felonies within the neighborhood (Williams & Smalls, 2015).
It is disheartening for a single-mother, working for over 13 hours a day to provide for the family, to realize that the son she cares for so much is now engaged in criminal activities. The problem is that some gangs prohibit their members from leaving or betraying the group. It means that once an adolescent becomes a member, their life, and that of the loved ones depend on the adolescent’s commitment to the gang (Wang & Kenny, 2014). They cannot leave the group unless the youth is arrested for crimes committed to avoiding the wrath of the gang. Gang involvement may be a poverty factor.
African-Americans are the worst affected by the problem of poverty. Leech (2016) argued the history of the U.S. has always put African-Americans at a position of disadvantage. Even after the abolition of the slave trade and slavery, African-Americans have never enjoyed socio-economic and political freedom (Price & Tayler, 2015). Disparities in education is a socio-economic factor.
Some of the best educational institutions in the U.S. give priority to Whites over any other race because of the problem of racism that has remained persistent in society. According to Brown (2016), the level and quality of education that a child gets define the ability to succeed in life. The poor continue to suffer because of the system that glorifies the wealthy and Whites.
Even after struggling to obtain a college certificate, a significant portion of African-Americans finds it difficult to find stable jobs in the country (Williams & Smalls, 2015). Employers in some of the Silicon Valley companies highly value the college where one graduated (Hutchin, 2013). Some of the top law firms in New York only hire law graduates from Harvard School of Law, Cambridge University, University of Manchester, and other Ivy League colleges.
The statistics show the employment status of people in three different races. Full-time employment has dropped for the majority of Americans from 2001 to 2010 (citation). Whites experienced a drop from 60.7% in 2001 to 54.5%. For African-Americans, it dropped from 55.8% to 50.4% during the same period (Damaske et al., 2017). Asians had a consistent increase in the number of those in full employment, from 54.8% in 2001 to 58.3%.
Howard and McInnes (2013) note that in 2010, unemployment among African-Americans increased from 9.7% in 2001 to 13.2 %. It is important to note that African-Americans are the worst affected group, per the statistics presented above. Leech (2016) explained the trend was caused by multiple factors. Juvenile delinquency, inability to acquire a college education and racial discrimination are some of the leading factors that cause unemployment.
Poverty is a major factor that defines a parent’s experience of the relationship with an adolescent son. Leech (2016) explained that factors such as limited education, lack of entrepreneurial skill, and the existence of systems that disfavor a section of the society may lead to poverty. Various statistics were used to highlight the differences among ethnic groups.
As shown in the above statistics, Whites and Asians were the least affected groups. Whites have a better education than Blacks have and do not suffer from any form of prejudice (Damaske et al., 2017). On the other hand, a significant number of Asians are experts in the field of technology, making it easy for them to find employment in the country (Williams & Smalls, 2015). Asians are less affected by racism compared to Blacks (Williams & Smalls, 2015).
As shown in the above data, African-Americans are some of the worst affected groups. Unlike other groups, the number of single African-American mothers at risk of unemployment has been on the rise from 2001 to 2010. Brown (2016) explained that some African-American single-mothers are not employed because of personal reasons, but that does not mean they are at risk of becoming poor. However, many single African-American mothers depend on their jobs to earn a living.
The above statistics show that poverty rates majorly affect American minority groups. In 2001, White females were the least affected group. Only 28.5% of the whites were affected during the same period (Damaske et al., 2017). The number of poor single White females has been on the rise consistently since then, to 33.7%. The slight increase may be attributed to the changing economic forces in the country. The problems of single White mothers are not worse than single African-American mothers. In 2001, 42.4% of single African-American mothers were considered poor. The number increased significantly to 46.2% in 2010.
As shown in the table above, single African-Americans were the group most impacted. Although the economic recession in the country affected everyone, it was the worst affected group. Snyder (2016) explained that almost half of the single African-American mothers struggled to provide their families with basic needs. As the population of single-mothers continues to increase, the problem continues to get worse. It is important to note that when these parents struggle to meet the economic needs of their families, their experience of the relationship with their sons is affected. Sometimes they express their frustrations openly to their children when things fail to work as per their expectations. The results were not the same for every ethnic group.
Single female Asian Americans have registered improved performance. Those considered poor dropped from 30.7% to 27.7% in 2010 (Damaske et al., 2017). The findings show that the rate of absolute poverty in the United States is dropping.
Personal Relationship between Mother and Child
The experience of a single-mother can sometimes be defined by the relationship they have with their sons. Snyder (2016) explained that some parents were able to develop a close relationship with their sons based on trust and love. At the adolescent stage, a son may be able to understand some of the challenges the parent goes through to make ends meet. It means they can offer emotional support to one another. The emotional pain of the mother is lessened by the understanding of the son. Alternatively, when the relationship is strained, the experience can be frustrating (Dickins, 2014).
Having to work hard to provide for a son who does not understand and appreciate the effort the single-mother is making to meet family needs can be stressful. Other factors can also strain relationships such as indiscipline and poor academic performance of an adolescent son. Single-mothers may have to deal with the problem of having sons capable of stealing from them. Such experiences can be painful if there is no close friend or family to offer proper support to the mother.
According to Marotz and Kupzyk (2018), suicidal thoughts can emerge in strained environments. Some single-mothers may turn to alcohol as a way of dealing with the problem. They feel that society will blame them for poor parenting (Ripley, 2013). Instead of getting rebuked for poor parenting, they opt to overcome their emotional stress by consuming alcohol. Such a decision tends to worsen an already bad situation. Initially, substance abuse drains the little financial resources the family has. Then, the substance abuse habit makes it difficult for the single-mother to spend more time at work (Patton, 2017). The extra income for the family is lost in the process. Such cases create even more problems within a family setting. Such problems often strain the relationship between a single mother and an adolescent son.
Parenting an adolescent is a challenging task. According to Leech (2016), “Raising an adolescent is one long, often agonizing, an exercise in the hardest part of parenting,” (p. 425). It is at this stage of parenting that one has to embrace the need for negotiation when instructing children. Teenagers tend to be rebellious at this stage of development. The physiological and psychological changes they experience are often confusing (Doody & Noonan, 2013).
Adolescents need adult support to understand how to cope with these changes, while at the same time, they need their space to make independent decisions. It means that a parent must learn how to guide their children through this complex phase of development in a way that offers adolescents the ability to make independent decisions (Jackson, 2013).
During the early stages of development, children tend to view their parents and teachers as their role models. At the adolescent stage, such a child is mature enough to understand the struggles and successes of the parent (Williams & Smalls, 2015). They may either admire or resent the lifestyle of a parent based on the values and beliefs they get to embrace. The parent has to cope with and manage a child’s attitude to guide them properly.
When adolescents realize their parents do not fit into the perfect person they want to become, they start looking for other role models, which may be the beginning of the rebellion. Brown (2016) explained that once an adolescent realizes that they do not want to lead a life similar to that of the parent, he or she may develop a feeling that the parent cannot advise them on how to work towards success. Other factors may be present during this stage of development.
Peer-pressure is another serious challenge at this stage, as Leech (2016) stated The moment a teenager fails to find a role model at home, they become susceptible to influences by friends. The need to gain acceptance may force them to act in ways that may put their lives, the lives of their loved ones, or their future in danger. Most of those who are abusing drugs start their habit as an adolescent. They experiment with their lives a lot, and that may be a major problem for them and their families (Williams & Smalls, 2015). Such rebellious children may easily become delinquents and can be sent to prison at a young age.
Parenting an adolescent son poses unique challenges for a single mother. As explained above, children often perceive their parents as their role models. Normally, a son will grow up wanting to be like the father (Doody & Noonan, 2013). In the case of single-mothers, the child will be raised by a single mother, who they cannot emulate. Haefner (2014) explained the challenges of an adolescent son needs the attention of the father to overcome some of the difficulties encountered at this stage of development. Most importantly, such a child grows up knowing they have to find a role model who is not the parent. A single-mother may struggle to guide such a child once the perception develops in his mind that he needs a different person to offer the needed guidance.
Brown (2016) argued that such adolescents can easily be misled by male members of society, especially those they view as potential role models. The desire to learn what it takes to be a man may make adolescents trust wrong the people within their immediate community. Such an experience can be traumatizing, especially if the child takes a wrong path against the advice offered by the mother.
Mothers Experience of Their Relationship with Their Adolescents Sons
African-American mothers’ experience of their relationship with their adolescent sons is a topic that is yet to receive significant attention from scholars. According to Cooper and Norcross (2016), the challenges that single-mothers face in the country are well documented in the different literature. Socio-economic and emotional challenges are enormous. However, the experiences of single African-American mothers’ relationship with their sons is unknown.
According to Devarakonda (2013), the majority of mothers often avoid engaging in conversations that are focused on discussing the burden they have to bear. They do not find it difficult to share the positive experiences of their relationship with their sons. For instance, when the son is disciplined, successful in school, and on the path towards greatness, it brings joy to these single-mothers and they easily share such positive experiences.
However, when they have to deal with undisciplined sons who fail to understand the relevance of taking their studies seriously, they do not share the painful experiences with anyone. They may reprimand such children, but in most cases, they prefer dealing with it on their own. Doody and Noonan (2013) argued this behavior was partly caused by social pressure. Every parent wants the best for their children and it is not easy to accept that a son is taking the wrong path in life. Mothers’ experience of their relationship with their adolescent sons can be discussed in the following categories.
Physical experience is one of the important factors that cannot be ignored when undertaking this research. According to Dörnyei and Ushioda (2013), being a single mother comes with numerous physical burdens. One has to go to work daily to ensure that the material needs of the family are met to the best of her capacity. The experience can be unbearable for a mother who lacks a stable income. Taking two or three jobs a day, six days a week is not easy.
Sometimes the physical interaction between the mother and son is minimal. By the time the adolescent son leaves home to go to school, the mother has already gone to work. She may return home late in the evening when the sun is almost asleep. The limited physical interaction makes it difficult for the mother to understand issues the son may be facing at school or in social life.
The mental or emotional experience that single parents go through is significantly different from that of two parents. As explained above, providing material needs to the family is just one of the many important responsibilities of a parent. A parent should take time with the child, understand, and address their emotional needs. It may be a problem of bullying at school or self-identity (Edward, 2013).
As an African-American adolescent, it may be common for the child to experience racism in various social settings. It is the responsibility of the parent to assure the child that the situation will be resolved. However, time to do that may not be available, straining the relationship between the child and parent (Farghaly, 2018). Such parents tend to be emotionally drained.
The emotional pain of having to do everything while the partner is away somewhere enjoying life is often overbearing. The experience is worsened when colleagues discuss their family dynamics and how responsibilities are shared. It increases the sense of loneliness and helplessness. Sometimes when these workmates plan to take holiday trips, the single-mother has to think of other extra jobs that she can take to meet the family’s financial needs. To address and cope with emotional and financial needs, single African American mothers may seek spiritual guidance.
Single African-American mother’s religious and spiritual experience should also be discussed. According to Ford and Moore (2013), some single-mothers often turn to religion as the solace to most of the challenges they encounter. The promise of a better life and a brighter future is always reassuring. Fusch and Ness (2015) explained that most of these single-mothers tend to be religious. However, this too can be frustrating if things continually fail to work as expected.
Christian believers are promised a better life if they persevere and hold on to their faith. Christian believers may view the church as their last option in providing proper guidance to their adolescent sons (Guirdham & Guirdham, 2017). However, the problem is that sometimes church leaders may not understand the unique challenges that an adolescent is facing. When the mother realizes the son is making wrong decisions, such as engaging in drugs or acts the society considers unacceptable, she may become frustrated. The religious experience they have may change from hope for a brighter future to despair. Single-mothers may realize they can no longer rely on religion to help them overcome their challenges.
The social experiences of single-mothers with adolescent sons also tend to be different from that of mothers who are in stable marriages. According to Price and Tayler (2015), American society is slowly accepting divorce as an unavoidable eventuality in some marriages. In the past, society frowned upon women who walked away from their husbands. They were subjected to condemnation and blamed for the separation.
However, that is changing in modern society. The changed attitudes on divorce do not mean single-mothers are fully accepted in this society. Hajar (2016) argued that it is more difficult for a single mother to find love than it is for a woman of the same age, but is childless. The problem is worse when the child is an adolescent son. Hess and Henig (2015) stated that many men tend to avoid getting into relationships where they have to bear the burden for other irresponsible men. The feeling that the adolescent son will not view the man with respect and love as a step-father only complicates the problem. It makes it difficult for single-mothers to lead to normal social lives.
Single-mothers may desire to have a man who respects and loves them, as every woman would want. However, single-mothers also realize they have an adolescent son who must be cared for due to the absence of the father. The experience can be frustrating. Many are forced to settle down with older men who are willing to accept their sons. It may be the only way for single-mothers to find a suitable mate for marriage (Patton, 2017). The affection a mother has towards a child is another experience that should be considered.
Hojjat and Moyer (2017) explained that a mother’s love for her child comes naturally and without any condition. Everything that she does is motivated by love, concern, and a feeling of responsibility. The problem is that in some cases, this experience may be affected by different factors, such as parental separation.
In the initial stages of the separation, the affection the mother had towards the husband shifts to the son. Everything that she does will revolve around the son. However, things may change when the adolescent son becomes rebellious. According to Howard and McInnes (2013), the single-mother will expect respect and love from the son. When that is lacking, the level of affection she has towards him may lessen.
Although love cannot easily be diminished, sometimes frustration may cause the mother to find it difficult to express affection. It often happens when the child becomes disrespectful and unwilling to follow instructions, either at school or at home. In the next section, studies on challenges that single African-American mothers may encounter when parenting their adolescent sons because of their demographical class were discussed.
Demographical Differences and Consequences
Single African-American mothers experience many struggles while parenting their adolescent sons. According to Barnett and Scaramella (2013), American society still treats people of different genders and races differently. Women are becoming successful in the corporate world and many are now holding senior positions in large companies across the country. However, women still trail men in terms of the ease with which they can be employed and the salaries earned (Johnsen & Friborg, 2015).
According to Stinson (2013), most employers prefer working with men than women because of various stereotypical reasons. It is easier for an American man with the same qualifications as a woman to get employment in the U.S. The salary scale also favors men. According to Brown (2016), “Today, on average, a woman earns 80.5 cents for every dollar a man earns, and women’s median annual earnings are $10,086 less than men’s” (p. 340). The pay disparity means that economically, it is more difficult for a single mother to raise an adolescent son than a single father.
Brown (2016) also observed that single-mothers were more vulnerable to economic exploitation. Single-mothers highly value economic stability even if they are exploited. These parents know that getting a decent job in the U.S. may take longer when shifting from one job to another. Given that they lack any other support, they may prefer to remain at their current jobs, even if their salary is lower than their male colleagues.
The problem that women face in society as single-mothers are worse if they are African-Americans. A study by Jeynes (2015) showed that African-American’s were less likely to get to the best colleges in the country compared to their white colleagues who scored the same grades in their final year of college. Institutions of learning in the country are still structured to favor Caucasians at the expense of African-Americans.
In the job market, the same trend is witnessed. Williams, Priest, and Anderson (2016) reported that “in 2015, the hourly pay gap between Blacks and Whites widened to 26.7%, with Whites making an average of $25.22 an hour compared to $18.49 for Blacks” (p. 410). It is upsetting that the more the society is trying to fight racism and its negative consequences, the more things seem not to change (Fraga, 2016). The statistics show that the situation is getting even worse.
The current wage gap is bigger than it was in the past. Wilson, Henriksen, Bustamante, and Irby (2016) reiterated that “almost 40 years ago, in 1979, the wage gap between Blacks and Whites was 18.1%, with Whites earning an inflation-adjusted average of $19.62 an hour and Blacks were earning $16.07 an hour” (p. 198). About 100 years ago, the justification for the wage gap was that African-Americans were less educated compared to Caucasians. However, that is no longer the case.
Brown (2016) stated that discrimination has been one of the leading reasons for the wage gap. The American system highly favors Whites, not just because of their numerical strength in the country, but also the belief they are superior (Hines Holcomb, & McCoy, 2013). A study conducted by Brown (2016) found that Blacks do not hesitate to employ Whites. On the other hand, some Whites still consider giving Blacks the last priority when hiring or promoting employees. The most unfortunate thing, as explained in black psychology theory, is that some Blacks have resigned to their fate and have come to believe that Whites are superior (Doody & Noonan, 2013). For a single African-American female raising an adolescent son in this society, all odds are against her and the experience can be frustrating.
The experience of single parenting can also be defined by gender. According to Ford and Moore (2013), it is more difficult for a single African-American woman with an adolescent son to get a committed partner than it is for a male of the same race and in a similar situation to remarry. The problem is that American society still embraces the belief that a man should be the provider for the family (Doody & Noonan, 2013).
It means that for most men, they view a woman with an adolescent son as a double responsibility. On the other hand, a woman may not have a problem marrying a man with an adolescent son because she knows the man will provide for the family. These single-mothers not only suffer from the huge financial burden they have to bear meeting the needs of the family but also have to deal with a complex love life (Johnsen & Friborg, 2015). Some of them are not looking for men to offer them financial support, but for someone, they can share their life while planning for the future (Wang & Kenny, 2014). However, planning for the future with a partner may have to be sacrificed because of being a mother to adolescent sons.
Leech (2016) explained that some men find it comfortable marrying women with infants so they can instill the right virtues in them. However, that is not possible for an adolescent. The fear that teenagers will not grant them the respect they deserve as a father figure often drive many men away from such mothers. Snyder (2016) noted that out of frustration, some single-mothers resort to marrying men twice their age, not because they are in love, but because of the desire to have some sort of support. Some of these challenges may strain the relationship between a mother and an adolescent son.
Level of discipline and academic excellence
The behavior of a child and academic performance also has an impact on the experiences of a parent. Slonim (2014) explained that although it is challenging to care for an adolescent son, parents get motivated when they have disciplined and academically intelligent sons. When an adolescent son follows instructions given in school and at home, and avoids all forms of trouble, the mother will not be troubled with the thought of them being in problem situations.
An adolescent who is a solid academic performer also gives hope to the parent (Williams & Smalls, 2015). Although the trend is changing among the rich, many low-income Americans still believe they can escape from poverty through their children. Some parents believe that when their children succeed in school and get stable, well-paying jobs, their children can provide them with a better lifestyle than the one they had before (Jeynes, 2015).
Conversely, the experience that a mother of an intelligent son would have is different from that with a poor performing son. Many families in this country still believe that success can only be achieved through education. When a son is limited academically, there is the feeling that he will lead the same desperate lifestyle as the poor parents (Hines &Holcomb‐McCoy, 2013). The single-mother loses hope needed to parent a child during this delicate stage of development. Other social factors exist.
Religious beliefs sometimes offer women much-needed emotional support. According to Slonim (2014), the number of women who regularly go to church in the U.S. is almost twice that of men. When parenting an adolescent son, a single-mother may have problems offering them the guidance they need to become responsible men (Cooper & Norcross, 2016). They may also lack the capacity to understand what these teenagers experience during this stage of development (Doody & Noonan, 2013).
However, church and other religious institutions can be of great assistance in many ways. Among members of the congregation, such a son can find a role model who can guide him as necessary. Many churches offer guidance and counseling to their members (Hojjat & Moyer, 2017). By offering guidance and counseling, an adolescent son can visit the pastor and discuss issues affecting the child’s life at school or home.
The mother of the adolescent can also get guidance on how to achieve success as a single parent. Youth groups in churches are often guided by the principles and practices of Christianity (Hines & Holcomb‐McCoy, 2013). Negative influences and peer pressure may not have a serious impact on adolescents because of the close guidance they get from church. A study by Barnett and Scaramella (2013) found out that women who go to church regularly have better experiences when parenting their teenage sons than those who do not go to church.
Other than the emotional support and guidance that they get from the congregation and church leaders, there is also a sense of hope they get. Women who attend church are reminded that their hard work may not be paid on earth, but God in heaven will surely reward them (Williams & Smalls, 2015). Although that may not make sense to non-believers, such assurances require faith among Christians. It makes them believe that there is a reason why they should continue with their struggle, however painful it may seem. Without such emotional support, one cannot easily overcome the numerous challenges of parenting an adolescent son.
Single African-American mothers’ experience of the relationship with their sons may seem to improve when they get proper religious support. According to Johnsen and Friborg (2015), most of the local churches (given that Christianity is the dominant religion in the country) have youth groups meant to guide adolescents at this delicate stage of development. In these groups, they learn how to become responsible sons and members of society.
They learn how to control their desires and needs both at home and at school. Nestor and Schutt (2014) explained that religious leaders can converse with these teenagers and explain to them that families tend to have different financial capacities.
As such, being too demanding to a parent may only worsen an already bad financial position of the family. Such a child may become rational in his demands, which can be a relief to the parent. Spending time in religious youth groups minimizes the chances of the adolescent son engaging in criminal activities. Most of his time may be spent reading the Bible and engaging in socially acceptable activities. The mother may be less worried about the adolescent son. Religious leaders and colleagues in these groups can also help the son have a proper identity of self. All these factors may improve the experiences of the mother. Other institutions may offer parental support.
The cost of living in some of the leading cities in the United States is prohibitive. For a poor single African-American mother, the financial burden may be too great to bear (Wang & Kenny, 2014). Government-sponsored social support may help ease the pain of parenting a son in such demanding conditions. Public housing is one of the most important social supports these parents need. The fact that these houses are subsidized means that these parents will pay less rent. They can spend their hard-earned income on other equally important needs.
The government has also introduced universal health care for all Americans. Snyder (2016) explained the cost of quality health care services in the country is very high. Before the introduction of universal health care plans, many poor families were struggling to access these services. However, the plans have assisted many individuals and families (Doody & Noonan, 2013). Single African-American females parenting their adolescent sons in the U.S. experience great financial difficulty if they do not qualify for these social support services, regardless if they are low-income parents (Slonim, 2014). Studies show that those who immigrate into the country illegally are the worst affected group.
Direct government support, such as subsidized housing and food assistance, may lessen the financial burden of parents. However, Embrick (2015) warned that it may not necessarily improve a mother’s experience of their relationship with their sons. In some cases, it may be worse.
Adolescence is a very sensitive stage of development (Feld, 2013). Having a sense of belonging and acceptance among peers is critical to these teenagers. Their ego can easily be broken by simple criticism, such as a colleague telling them that they are so poor that they have to be supported by the government (Signil, 2016). The support they get from the government is expected to bring joy to a mother and her son. In such cases, however, it becomes a source of criticism.
It reaffirms the level of poverty of the family (Guinn, 2014). For an emotionally mature teenage son, such criticism may be ignored and attention directed towards what matters most in his life. Unfortunately, that is not always the case (Jonson-Reid, Drake, & Zhou, 2013). Adolescents may tend to blame their parents. The child may develop the feeling that their condition exists because of a lack of commitment on the part of the parent (Heilbrun, DeMatteo, King, & Filone, 2017). Adolescents develop the feeling their parent is not doing enough to make it possible for the family to have a decent home or living environment.
Synthesis of the Research Findings
The review of the literature reported the various aspects of single-mothers who parent their adolescent sons. One of the themes that emerged from the literature was the impact of social status on parenting (Wang & Kenny, 2014). The study shows that financially empowered single-mothers found it less stressful to care for their adolescent sons (Drifte, 2014). The ability of single-mothers to provide most of the needs of these teenagers makes the experience memorable.
However, poor single-mothers strain a lot to care for their teenage sons. Another major theme brought out is racism and its impact on parenting adolescent sons. According to Slonim (2014), the U.S. made significant steps in fighting racism in all its forms. However, it is still a major problem in the country. Racism affects the education sector, workplace environment, and other social forums.
The review revealed that African-Americans still find it more difficult to get employment than their white colleagues who have similar qualifications. Gender was another theme presented in the review (June & Mathis, 2013). The experience of single-mothers when parenting adolescent sons is worse than that of single fathers. A single-mother will find it more difficult getting a good job in this country than a male colleague in the same situation.
It is also not easy for single-mothers to have successful relationships because many men avoid the burden of caring for such sons (Styron &Styron, 2017). It is important to note that although the researcher identified and reviewed numerous journal articles and books, a detailed study of the experience of single African-American females parenting their adolescent sons was missing (Brock, Dodds, Jarvis, &Olusoga, 2013). It was an indication that further investigation was necessary for this field.
The researcher reviewed various theories to determine how they can help in understanding the experience of African-American female parents in the country. Black Psychology theory was important in explaining the beliefs and attitudes of American society towards Blacks (Devarakonda, 2013). Black psychology theories’ main strength was the ability to explain why it is still difficult for African-Americans to achieve success in society despite the effort put in place to fight racism. Family Systems Theory explained the relationships of family members and the pain experienced when one member of the family is affected by a specific problem (Hines & Holcomb‐McCoy, 2013).
Family Systems Theory helped in explaining why it is easy for an adolescent son to join gangs to earn money when he realizes the mother is struggling to meet basic needs for the family. However, the main weakness of this theory is that it does not provide specific information on the challenges that single African-American females’ experience. Family Systems Theory reviewed the experience from a broad perspective (Williams et al., 2017). The two theories provided an understanding of the diversity of American society and its relevance in defining the relationship between parents and siblings.
The review of the literature provided a review of the experiences of single-mothers in this country. Their experience is more challenging than that of fathers who have to raise their adolescent children (Hallet, 2016). It starts from the difficulty in meeting the financial needs to having problems getting committed long-term partners. The review of the literature also showed that African-Americans are a disadvantaged minority group because of the social setting of the country.
Racism puts them at a position of disadvantage (Doody & Noonan, 2013). It is also clear from the information gathered in this chapter that experiences of single-mothers found it more difficult parenting adolescent sons than adolescent daughters. A study by Brown (2016) revealed that single-mothers prefer having girls to boys. Some even resented raising boys on their own. Although finding literature that accurately discussed the topic comprehensively was challenging, it was possible to gather information from different sources to provide a thorough literature review.
Information obtained from the literature review supported the need to conduct a study identifying a single African-American mother’s experience of their relationship with their adolescent sons. According to Taylor (2016), it was not common for these parents to discuss their experience of how they relate to their sons. Some fear being criticized for poor parenting when they reveal that their relationship is not good (Cherry, Baltag, & Dillon, 2016).
Others feel that it is their responsibility to ensure the relationship is at its best (Weatherspoon, 2014). As such, they do not find it comfortable talking about these experiences. The literature review does not provide a detailed explanation of why some single-mothers often feel uncomfortable talking about these experiences. However, this study may provide that explanation (Promes, 2016). When interviewing the parents, one of the issues that will be investigated is whether or not they often speak about these experiences and why. Their responses may be used to fill the knowledge gap that currently exists (Shimazu, Bin, Dollard, & Oakman, 2017).
Critique of Previous Research Methods
The experience of single African-American mothers being parents to their adolescent sons is a very critical topic that needs to be studied. According to Ford and Moore (2013), some parents end up committing suicide because of the depression from such experiences. As such, care was taken when selecting resources for the study. Most of the resources used were authored by reputable scholars who studied the problem of single parenting, the impact of racism, and income inequalities in the U.S. (Bright & Jonson-Reid, 2015).
Dr. Maudry-Beverley Lashley is an accomplished author who has spent many years studying the experience of African-American single-mothers and the perception the society has towards them. As Barnett and Scaramella (2013) noted, the validity and reliability of secondary sources of data often depend on the knowledge and experience of the author. Therefore, the researcher sought studies conducted by such accomplished scholars.
It was also necessary to consider the rigor of design, sampling techniques and sample sizes, quality of the instruments of research, the relevance of the statistical procedure, and other related quality factors of the articles before using them in the study (Flavell, 2014).
An appropriate sample size makes it possible to have accurate data. Slonim (2014) explained that a large sample size makes the study more trusting. Given that this is a qualitative study, it was necessary to review quantitative studies, as well as the literature review. Some of the articles used in this chapter were based on quantitative research (Wu et al., 2015). Although some of their investigations were conducted over 14 years ago, they are still relevant in the present context.
Snyder (2016) warned that failure to review the relevance and reliability of sources can lead to the collection of misleading information. The scholar also warns against using few sources when researching a highly sensitive issue, such as the topic of this study (Hooper, 2013). Obtaining peer-reviewed sources from various experts expanded the knowledge and helped to identify possible conflicts in the body of knowledge, which is the reason why numerous sources were used in this chapter.
The majority of the articles reviewed in this chapter based their conclusions on the findings from both primary and secondary sources. However, it is important to note that a few only relied on secondary data. According to Devarakonda (2013), it is not advisable to entirely rely on secondary sources of information. When conducting research, the focus should always be on addressing the existing knowledge gap (Hess & Henig, 2015).
However, that cannot be achieved by wholly relying on books and articles. One should consider engaging human subjects to understand the current state of a given issue (Elish-Piper, 2013). Engaging and interviewing human subjects may help to identify if anything has changed over the recent past and how it affects the existing knowledge. Such conflicts will be avoided in this study (Ledgerton, 2013). The researcher will ensure that secondary data is integrated with primary data collected from participants.
Single parenting is becoming a common problem in the United States. Many scholars classify it as a problem because not many people marry to have children and then part ways. It is also a problem because raising a child as a single parent is more challenging than when partners do it together. Infidelity is considered one of the leading reasons why many families are breaking apart in the United States.
Women’s empowerment, intolerance, heavy use of social media, and the desire to commit to achieving career success are some of the reasons why single parenting is becoming common. The review of the literature found that many women suffer while caring for their adolescent sons. Other than the financial strain, they find it difficult to identifying and openly discussing challenges that they face in life. Culture limits what they can discuss with their sons.
Society is changing and some of the experiences that women went through in the past may not be the same as today. It is critical to collect primary data to identify participants’ experiences. The theoretical concept helps in understanding the unique situation that single African-American mothers experience when caring for their adolescent sons. Black psychology theory explained the position of disadvantage that single African-American mothers find themselves in within society. Systems and structures are designed in a way that is unfavorable to women and people of color. It means that being an African-American female can be seen as double jeopardy in the U.S.
System theory was also considered relevant to identify the mother’s experience of relationship with an adolescent son. As defined in Chapter one, a system refers to a cohesive assembly of interlinked but independent units (Cherry et al., 2016).
Each unit is expected to function independently, but in a manner that supports the overall goal of the system. In a family unit, it is expected that parents and children will play their different roles, but in a way, that enhances the success and happiness of everyone involved. For a single-mother, meeting all expectations of a parent may not be easy. It may be possible to meet all the material needs, but in the process of doing so, the parent may not have enough time to spend with the child. Such failures may have a significant impact on the child’s normal development. The next chapter explained the methods used to collect, analyze, and interpret primary data.
Purpose of the Study
In this chapter, the purpose was to discuss the methods used to collect, analyze, and interpret primary data collected from the participants. The purpose of the study is to identify the perceptions of single African-American mother’s relationships with their adolescent sons (ages 14-19), and how these relationships develop over time.
The proposed study may identify themes that may be used to inform the field and lead to improved life outcomes of such sons (e.g., preventing juvenile delinquency or increasing their academic success) by providing findings that might help design interventions for these families to improve mother-son relationships (Barajas, 2011; Roberts, 2011; Robinson & Werblow, 2013). According to Benner, Boyle, and Sadler (2016), the experience of single African-American females of being parents to their adolescent sons is changing.
An investigation that focuses on this topic needs proper collection and analysis of primary data to identify the current state of the situation. It is the reason why the researcher considered it appropriate to conduct primary data collection and analysis to understand the current situation. The chapter identifies the research design used in the study, sampling, and sample size used, and the procedure used in selecting the participants. It also discusses the design of the questionnaire and how it was used to collect data from respondents. The chapter concludes by explaining the ethical considerations and the chapter summary. A detailed plan of the paper provides an effective outline of the steps necessary to conduct the research. It is necessary to re-state the research question that guided the study.
The following was the research question used in the study:
How do single African-American Mothers experience their relationship with their adolescents Sons?
The qualitative design for the proposed study will be a generic qualitative study (Kahlke, 2014; Percy et al., 2015). The approach is suitable for the problem to be investigated because the generic qualitative methodology can be used to identify the experiences and perceptions of external phenomena, which are African-American mothers’ experiences of their relationships with their sons; Kahlke, 2014; Percy et al., 2015).
As for the research model, inductive analysis, a component of generic qualitative analysis, will be used (Bendassolli, 2013; Percy et al., 2015). The data will be used by the researcher in the analysis process, during which repeating patterns may be found in the participants’ responses (Percy et al., 2015). From these patterns, themes will emerge, which will then be synthesized to answer the research question of the study (Percy et al., 2015).
The data collection methods will be comprised of semi-structured interviews, which will consist of open-ended questions that will allow for follow-up questions to keep participants focused on identifying their experiences (Dworkin, 2012; Irvine, Drew, & Sainsbury, 2013; Qu & Dumay, 2011; Rabionet, 2011). According to Percy et al. (2015), semi-structured interviews are appropriate for data collection in a generic qualitative study (Percy et al., 2015).
Identifying the appropriate research philosophy is critical to ensure the correct assumptions are made when collecting and analyzing data. According to Fusch and Ness (2015), before selecting the appropriate research approach and research design used in a study, it is important to start by defining the research philosophy that will guide the major assumptions of the study. Doody and Noonan (2013) explained that a research philosophy refers to the beliefs the researcher has about how data on a phenomenon should be gathered, interpreted, and used. A researcher can opt to use positivism, realism, pragmatism, or interpretivism, based on the nature of the study. For the current study, interpretivism was selected as the most appropriate philosophy.
Interpretivist, also known as interpretivism, is a popular philosophy in social sciences research. Interpretivism holds that access to reality is only through “social constructions, such as language, consciousness, shared meanings, and instruments” (AlYahmady&Alabri, 2013, page # needed for direct quotes). When investigating a phenomenon in society, limiting one’s self to an observer who does not integrate and engage participants can limit the ability to collect data accurately.
It may lead to cases where one makes wrong assumptions because of the lack of physical interaction. Limiting oneself to the role of an observer may explain why it allows a researcher to engage the participants directly, ask for clarifications from them when necessary, and ensure that an issue is understood as much as possible. The role of an observer is used in studies of phenomenology, social constructivism, and hermeneutics (Doody & Noonan, 2013).
When embracing this philosophy, a researcher is expected to take the qualitative approach of research design because of the need to identify how and why a phenomenon occurred in the manner it did. In this case, the goal is to identify the experiences of single African-American female parents of adolescent sons. Using qualitative methods, it was possible to identify the experiences of these single-mothers based on different factors. It was also possible to identify any variations that may emerge based on their experiences caused by their varying socio-economic status in society. The generic qualitative approach was the most appropriate research philosophy selected for the study. The next step was to select the appropriate research approach.
The inductive approach was selected as the appropriate research approach for this study. The inductive approach is commonly used in the social sciences. Unlike deductive research, inductive reasoning does not require the formulation of the hypothesis (Yanow & Schwartz-Shea, 2014). Instead, it starts with the development of research goals and objectives. One is then expected to go to the field and make observations that would help in achieving the goals by answering the research questions. The inductive approach starts with making observations based on the research questions and objectives. One is then expected to monitor the patterns, before developing a theory or making a conclusion.
The inductive approach was selected as the most appropriate approach for this study. The purpose, need for the study, and the research question was discussed in chapter one. The researcher then collected primary data to facilitate answering the research question. The final chapter presents the findings, results, and conclusions of the study about the experiences of single African-American females when parenting their adolescent sons. Chapter five also provides recommendations on how the process can be less stressful, especially for those who are dealing with the condition for the first time.
Target Population and Sample
The population for the current study was comprised of single African-American mothers who had one adolescent son, aged 14-19 (Fernandez, Butler, & Eyberg, 2011; Varner &Mandara, 2013). The selected age range was chosen because, during this period of life, known as adolescence, the child undergoes significant physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development, and parents often find it difficult to adapt to this change and adjust their parenting methods (Hahn et al., 2012; Varner & Mandara, 2013).
Adolescence makes the relationships between the mother and her son in this period difficult, and understanding these difficulties is important if methods to facilitate these relationships are to be developed in the future. Also, it was necessary to select single-mothers who had at least one son. The mothers must have lived with their sons, so their relationship would be sufficiently close, and also to reduce the heterogeneity of the sample. Inclusion criteria were:
- Single African-American mothers aged 27-55.
- Reside in the U.S.
- Resided with at least one adolescent son aged 14-19.
Identifying the target population was important to enable the researcher to select an appropriate sample. According to Benner, Boyle, and & Sadler (2016), identifying the experiences of single African-American females when parenting their adolescent sons required engaging the specific target group. Although there are no exact statistics about the number of single African-American mothers in the country, Brannon, Markus, and Taylor (2015) explained that the problem affects millions of people. According to the 2010 U.S. Census (citation), the population of African-Americans was believed to be more than 42 million. A significant portion of that number included single women with children.
The current study further limited the population to include those who have adolescent sons. It was also important to note that another important factor was the place of residence of the targeted population. The research only focused on single African-American mothers who resided in the U.S., since the socio-economic and political environment in the United States is different from that of other countries. As such, those living out of the country were excluded because factors that influence their experience are different from that of the locals. The above factors defined how the sample was selected.
According to Dworkin (2012), sample sizes for qualitative studies are usually smaller than quantitative methods (Dworkin, 2012). The sample consisted of eight – 15 individuals or from several participants which is sufficient for achieving data saturation (Dworkin, 2012; Fusch & Ness, 2015; White, Oelke, &Friesen, 2012). Clinard (2015) stated that when collecting data from a specific group of people, the non-random sampling method was the most appropriate (Ebert et al., 2015).
The purposeful sampling method was used, which meant participants were selected according to the inclusion criteria for the study (Palinkas et al., 2015; Suri, 2011). Purposeful sampling was necessary to ensure the right number of participants were selected for the study. Purposeful sampling allowed the selection of those who were part of the study.
According to Campbell, Quincy, Osserman, and Pedersen (2013), when an investigation focuses on a large population, sampling becomes necessary. In an academic study, time is often one of the most important considerations that cannot be ignored. The study must be completed within a specific period, taking into consideration other factors, such as the financial resources needed to conduct the study. In this case, the problem affects millions of people. Sampling was, therefore, necessary to ensure that data was collected within the set time. The next section discussed the procedures used for data collection.
According to Guirdham and Guirdham (2017), outlining the procedures used in collecting primary data is one of the ways of explaining the validity of the study to the participants. It is not possible to collect the needed data if the procedure used was wrong. Correct procedures must be followed at every stage of the study, and that is why it was important for the researcher to explain the steps taken to gather information from the sampled respondents. The whole process started with participants’ selection to the last stage of data analysis.
Selecting the right participants, as described above, was critical in this study. It was necessary to develop the appropriate procedures to conduct participant interviews. The researcher posted flyers in parks, recreation centers, church bulletins, and Facebook posts. The contact number for the researcher was provided on the flyer. Once potential participants contacted the researcher, a detailed explanation of the relevance of the study was provided, and why these specific parents were chosen. It was also necessary to ensure that participants were protected.
Protection of Participants
The proposed study was designed to comply with the ethical standards for a psychological study, in particular, with the Code of Ethics of APA (as cited in Hanson & Kerkhoff, 2011; Wester, 2011). Neither the participants nor the researcher was subjected to risks since the interviews were conducted in a setting provided by the researcher (Fraga, 2016). The participants were interviewed using the semi-structured interview approach (Doody & Noonan, 2013; Rowley, 2012), and participants were informed they had the option to refuse to answer questions that made them feel uncomfortable (Hanson & Kerkhoff, 2011; Wester, 2011).
To protect the participants, the researcher did not reveal any personal information to third parties.
Also, informed consent will be obtained from each of the participants before involving them in the research. The participants will also be advised that participation is completely voluntary, that they may skip any question or topic they do not wish to discuss, and that they may stop an interview at any time. During the data collection process, the participants will be assigned ID numbers that will allow for identification. The audio recordings of the interviews may be transcribed by third parties, but no information about the participants will be revealed to them, and a signed confidentiality agreement will be obtained stating they cannot provide this data to anyone else.
After the data was collected and transcribed, participants were requested to review the transcripts and make any revisions they deemed necessary. Also, the data will only be used to answer the research question of the proposed study. The data will not be used against study participants or anyone else. It will be utilized solely for scientific purposes, and not for any other goals.
According to Lewis (2015), it was critical to ensure that participants were protected, especially when collecting data on a controversial topic. The topic being investigated in this study may not be emotive, but it is one that a section of the society may not want to talk about because of the emotional pain and financial burden associated with it (Cokley, Awosogba, & Taylor, 2014). It was necessary to ensure that the participants were protected. The protection of the participants was done at different stages.
First, the participants were fully informed about the purpose of the study and the reasons why they were selected to participate. They were informed they had the option to withdraw from the study at any time if they felt it was necessary to do so. As Lewis (2015) advised, the selection of the participants was done voluntarily.
The voluntary nature of the study ensured that no one who felt threatened took part in the investigation. The next step was to protect the identity of the participants. Some of the participants stated they could only take part in the study if they were assured that their identity would be confidential. Rovai, Baker, and Ponton (2013) explained that sometimes single parents were victimized because of their status, thus each participant was assigned a unique code.
This approach meant that it was impossible for anyone who accessed the raw data to identify the participants (Pachankis, Hatzenbuehler, Rendina, Safren, & Parsons, 2015). Participants were informed about the mechanisms when assigning them the specific codes. The above steps were taken to ensure that the identity of the participants remained confidential.
Before the data collection, the researcher conducted a 60-minute conference- call with a total of three expert reviewers, at that present time interview questions were evaluated and approved. The expert reviewers included the following:
- Rosanne E. Roberts, Ph.D., Faculty Mentor, and Chair.
- Jennifer Geimer, Ph.D., Committee Member.
- Joanna Sailor, Ph.D., LMFT, Committee Member.
The actual process of data collection can be very rigorous. As Tricco et al. (2016) observed, primary data helped to identify gaps in the phenomenon. As previously described, primary data was obtained from interviews of single African-American females parenting adolescent sons.
The qualitative data (Bazeley, 2012; Jackson & Mazzei, 2013) was collected from participants during personal interviews, which were conducted either in-person or by telephone. In-person interviews were conducted in a private room in a public organization (such as a local public library, school, or university) that was booked in advance. Yilmaz (2013) believed that a face-to-face interview is one of the best ways of collecting data, especially in a qualitative study. The physical interaction also creates a bond between the researcher and the respondents, making it easy to gather the needed information (Vaismoradi, Turunen, &Bondas, 2013).
For respondents unable to attend an in-person interview, telephone interviews were conducted. Bendassolli (2013) provided a rationale for telephone interviews, which included parents’ limited scheduling availability and lack of transportation. As such, it was easier to interview them by telephone as opposed to conducting a face-to-face interview.
Before starting the interview, participants were provided with informed consent forms. Once the signed consent form was returned to the researcher, the interviews began. Each participant was assigned an alpha-numeric designation (i.e., P1, P2, etc., for participant 1, participant 2, and so on) to maintain their confidentiality throughout the study. Participants were also informed their participation was voluntary, and the interview could be stopped at any time, and questions that made them uncomfortable did not have to be answered.
At the beginning of each interview, each participant was requested to provide responses to the questions, but to feel free to add anything the participants wished to add or believed was important. Semi-structured interview questions consisted of open-ended questions that kept participants focused on identifying their experiences (Dworkin, 2012; Irvine, Drew, & Sainsbury, 2013; Qu & Dumay, 2011; Rabionet, 2011). Also, the researcher made field notes during and after the interview. After the interview ended, the audio recording was stopped, and the participant was given the $10 gift card. The following steps were used to collect the data:
- Advertisements, listing the researchers’ contact information, were posted on Facebook and in public places seeking participants.
- Once contact was established with participants, the researcher made phone calls to parents explaining the purpose of the study and requested their participation.
- The date, time, and location of the interview were established.
- Before the interview, the purpose of the study was provided and informed consent forms were provided to participants.
- Once the signed, informed consent was presented to the researcher, the interview began.
- The approved demographic questionnaire was provided to participants.
- The interview was conducted using semi-structured interview questions.
The interviews lasted approximately one hour. After each interview was over, the recording device was turned off, and the data collection procedure for each participant was concluded. The researcher thanked the participant for the interview. The researcher made impression notes about the interview.
The audio recordings were transcribed by the researcher. Each participant was emailed the transcripts of their interview, with the request to review it and return it with comments or revisions. No participants submitted revisions. All the data was saved onto a USB flash device. The recordings and the researcher’s notes were placed in a locked safe.
After the seven-year retention period, the information will be destroyed by shredding and according to _ University, data will be permanently and irreversibly destroyed or “sanitized.” A device that has been sanitized has no usable residual data. Physical destruction is considered the most secure method of destroying data. Other means of destroying data include reformatting the media or using special software to scrub the media. The National Institutes of Standards and Technology has issued guidance on data sanitation that described best practices for clearing, purging, and destroying data for a vast array of media and will be used for this study (_ University, 2017). All data will be kept in a locked file cabinet located in the home office of the researcher until the end of the seven-year retention period.
After collecting data from the participants, the next step was to analyze and interpret the data. Qualitative analysis of data was considered most appropriate when identifying the experiences of single African-American female parents of adolescent sons (Boeren, 2018). Identifying the experiences of participants was critical to determine emerging themes (Creswell, 2012). When done properly, themes emerged to answer the research question.
According to Percy et al. (2015), thematic analysis is appropriate for a generic qualitative study. Data analysis was conducted using the method of coding to identify themes in the transcribed data (AlYahmady & Alabri, 2013; Campbell, Quincy, Osserman, & Pedersen, 2013; Chenail, 2012; de Castle, Gastmans, Bryon, & Denier, 2012; Percy et al., 2015; Pierre & Jackson, 2014; Smith & Firth, 2011). The thematic analysis was inductive and data-driven (Percy et al., 2015). To conduct it, the following steps were taken (Percy et al., 2015):
- All the transcribed data was read several times.
- The researcher then listened to the recording of each interview. Significant words and phrases were highlighted.
- The significant words and phrases were assigned codes, i.e. very brief descriptions of the contents (Percy et al., 2015).
- The parts of the data that were similar were clustered so that it will be possible to find patterns. Each pattern was assigned a brief code. The codes were relevant to the field of psychology (Percy et al., 2015).
- The patterns were reviewed and themes were found in the data. The patterns, codes, themes were arranged into clusters (Campbell et al., 2013; Percy et al., 2015). Direct quotes from participants’ were placed near the corresponding patterns.
- The same procedures were repeated for the data obtained from each participant.
- The patterns were clustered and synthesized into themes. Descriptors were assigned to themes using terminology relevant to the field of psychology (Percy et al., 2015).
- The themes were arranged into a matrix, and the corresponding patterns that supported the themes were also included (Percy et al., 2015). Codes or descriptors were also utilized for every data cluster in the matrix (Percy et al., 2015).
- For every theme in the matrix, a narrative description was written and presented in Chapter Four.
- The same procedures were repeated for each participant in the study. After the data analysis process was complete, the themes and patterns that emerged from the data were combined and presented in a narrative summary (Percy et al., 2015).
The instrument of Data Collection
Data was collected from the participants using semi-structured interview questions. When conducting the literature review, gaps in the existing knowledge were identified, which helped in developing relevant research questions. A detailed explanation of the structure of the instrument used in collecting data was provided in the section below.
Structure of the instrument
The instrument used in collecting data was comprised of various sections. Palinkas et al. (2015) explain that an instrument used in collecting data should also capture specific details about participants. The first section of the instrument focused on the demographic background of participants. The instrument captured the age, gender, and nationality of the participants.
The second part of the instrument focused on the academic qualifications of the participants. Yilmaz (2013) explained that highly-educated and experienced people are more likely to get well-paying jobs that those who lack similar qualifications. It defined their financial capacity as they struggled to raise their adolescent sons in the U.S. (Kitche& Ball, 2014). The last section of the questionnaire focused on specific issues related to the experiences of single African-American females when parenting their adolescent sons.
The Role of the Researcher
The role of the researcher was critical in the study because credibility, dependability, and transferability of the study depended upon the researcher (Patton, 2002). The credibility of the scholar is said to be a factor in the credibility of a study (Patton, 2002, p. 584). To ensure the transferability of a study, it is paramount the researcher does not extrapolate the data without its careful analysis and without considering one’s own biases (Patton, 2002, p. 584). Finally, the dependability of a study required careful planning of the steps taken during the study, their accurate execution, and precise description in the final work to ensure other scholars can replicate the study (Patton, 2002).
The role of the researcher was limited to that of data collection, analysis, and interpretation. It was critical to ensure the researcher remained objective throughout the data collection and analysis phase. Although the researcher engaged participants, it was essential to recognize and minimize potential researcher bias that may have influenced the outcome of the study. Nuri, Demirok, and Direktör (2017) explained that sometimes a researcher may use personal knowledge, which sometimes is based on misconceptions and prejudice, to make conclusions. As such, it was crucial to remain as objective as possible, as advised by Palinkas et al. (2015).
The participant’s words were not addressed, and only neutral clarifying follow-up questions were asked, when necessary. To ensure the data collection procedure remained neutral, the researcher refrained from asking additional questions related to socioeconomic status and participants’ education unless the questions were included in the list of guiding questions for the interview. The researcher also made a list of possible preconceptions and referred to the list before asking follow-up questions.
During the data analysis process, the researcher withheld judgment. It was critical to only make conclusions based on the data (Percy et al., 2015). The technique of generating and assessing rival conclusions was used (Patton, 2002). Also, the researcher made a list of personal and professional biases (such as being Black, being a female, and having experience of working as a mental health counselor) to avoid biases of the researcher (Patton, 2002).
Guiding Interview Questions
According to Nestor and Schutt (2014), when collecting primary data, it is critical to have guiding interview questions. As Zan and Donegan-Ritter (2014) observed, such questions were meant to standardize the interview process. It ensured that participants answered similar questions to make the analysis process simple. The guiding, semi-structured interview questions were developed based on the research purpose and objectives. They were designed in a way that made it possible to achieve the primary goal of the study.
It was crucial to draft research questions that would help in collecting data from the respondents. Irvine, Drew, and Sainsbury (2013) explained that when questions are developed effectively, they help in concentrating the focus of the study and eliminated cases where irrelevant information was gathered from the respondents. It was necessary to draft interview questions to identify the experiences necessary for the study. The following are the semi-structured interview questions that were used in collecting data:
- Tell me about your relationships with your adolescent son.
- What do you feel influences your relationship with your adolescent son?
- What comes to mind when you think of a mother/adolescent son relationship?
- Describe in detail what it is like to experience a relationship with your adolescent son.
- What do you do to maintain a relationship with your adolescent son?
- What feelings come to mind when you think about your relationship with your adolescent son?
- Provide me with examples or stories that will help me understand your relationship with your adolescent son.
- How do you view the mother/son relationship during adolescence?
- Is there anything else that you think is important to know for me to completely understand how you experience your relationship with your adolescent son?
- Describe your roles/responsibilities as a single mother to your adolescent son.
Observing ethical concerns is critical in academic research. According to Cooper and Norcross (2016), a researcher has a responsibility to observe ethical concerns in the study. First, the researcher had to seek permission from single African-American female parents involved in the study. They explained their concerns and suggested ways in which the needed information could be gathered in a more efficient manner (Bernard, 2013). The nature of the study was explained to the participants.
Participants were informed of why they were selected to be part of the study. Protecting the identity of the participants was another major responsibility of a researcher. Yilmaz (2013) explained that some topics may be controversial and protecting participants from victimization was critical. To avoid such problems, participants were assigned code names instead of using their actual names.
As an academic study, it was also ethically necessary for the researcher to abide by school rules and regulations in this dissertation. All forms of plagiarism were avoided. Data collected from secondary sources were referenced using the American Psychological Association (APA) style. The study had to be completed while adhering strictly to the above criteria.
Chapter three of this study provides a detailed discussion of the methodology used to collect, analyze, and interpret primary data collected from the participants. There were several steps used in the data collection and analysis process. The steps began by defining the purpose of the study before starting the research questions. It then explained the philosophy upon which assumptions were made in the study. The research approach and design were also discussed in this chapter.
The research design explained the target population and sampling technique used in the paper. The procedure was used to collect and analyze data as described and included a description of the instruments used in data collection. The chapter ended with a discussion of ethical considerations that were observed in this paper. The next chapter is the analysis section of the primary data collected from the participants.
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Statement of Original Work
Academic Honesty Policy
_ University’s Academic Honesty Policy (3.01.01) holds learners accountable for the integrity of work they submit, which includes but is not limited to discussion postings, assignments, comprehensive exams, and the dissertation or capstone project.
Established in the Policy are the expectations for original work, rationale for the policy, definition of terms that pertain to academic honesty and original work, and disciplinary consequences of academic dishonesty. Also stated in the Policy is the expectation that learners will follow APA rules for citing another person’s ideas or works.
The following standards for original work and definition of plagiarism are discussed in the Policy:
Learners are expected to be the sole authors of their work and to acknowledge the authorship of others’ work through proper citation and reference. Use of another person’s ideas, including another learner’s, without proper reference or citation constitutes plagiarism and academic dishonesty and is prohibited conduct. (p. 1)
Plagiarism is one example of academic dishonesty. Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s ideas or work as your own. Plagiarism also includes copying verbatim or rephrasing ideas without properly acknowledging the source by author, date, and publication medium. (p. 2)
_ University’s Research Misconduct Policy (3.03.06) holds learners accountable for research integrity. What constitutes research misconduct is discussed in the Policy:
Research misconduct includes but is not limited to falsification, fabrication, plagiarism, misappropriation, or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results. (p. 1)
Learners failing to abide by these policies are subject to consequences, including but not limited to dismissal or revocation of the degree.
Statement of Original Work and Signature
I have read, understood, and abided by _ University’s Academic Honesty Policy (3.01.01) and Research Misconduct Policy (3.03.06), including Policy Statements, Rationale, and Definitions.
I attest that this dissertation or capstone projectis my own work. Where I have used the ideas or words of others, I have paraphrased, summarized, or used direct quotes following the guidelines set forth in the APA Publication Manual.