African-Centered Psychology for Single Mothers

The proposed study will have theoretical implications for psychology because it will allow for developing a better understanding of single African American mothers’ experience of their relationships with their sons. According to Doody and Noonan (2013), theories such as black psychology theory and general system theory will be utilized to understand the dynamic experience of that relationship.

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The proposed study may contribute to each of these theories by providing a description of the lived experience of the participants, consequently, further refining these theories to enable them to be utilized in the exploration of similar relationships (Barajas, 2011; Robinson & Werblow, 2013; Wilson et al., 2016)

Black psychology theory, also referred to as African psychology (Elliott, Powell, & Brenton, 2015), African-centered psychology, and Afro-centric psychology (Brown, 2016), is a psychological theory that explains the experiences of African individuals (or individuals of African origins) from a perspective that is grounded in the principles, perceptions, and traditions of African peoples (Mosley-Howard & Evans, 2000; Parham, 2002).

It includes a holistic understanding of the human and excludes traditional Western dualisms, such as mind-body or cognitive-affect dualisms (Parham et al., 2016). African worldviews include communal centeredness, which is when a person is viewed primarily as part of their community (Parham et al., 2016). Through this study, the theory of black psychology will be tested and its relevance in the modern society determined in the modern society. It emphasizes the communal nature of the African culture. A problem that affects one of its members is considered a shared problem that requires teamwork to solve.

The lived experience of single African American mothers when parenting their adolescent sons can help in confirming the relevance of the theory. Based on the tenets of the theory, it would be expected that the challenges that a single African American mother faces would be addressed, not only by the single mother but also by members of her society. It is expected that family and friends will offer their support to ensure that the burden is not left on the shoulders of the mother.

According to Brown (2016), most of these single parents struggle to provide for the basic needs of their children. Some may even end up homeless because of their inability to afford decent housing. Such experiences challenge the relevance of black psychology in the modern century. It is an indication that the society is transforming and becoming more individualistic, as opposed to the communal approach proposed by the theory. When a single mother cannot afford basic needs because of her low earnings, it indicates that the society is not keen on supporting her. It is apparent that family and friends do not think that it is their responsibility to offer material support to her as would be expected of a society that values principles explained in the theory.

According to Wilson et al. (2016), the individualistic lifestyle that is becoming common among this population may be due to assimilation. As the African American population continues to interact with other cultures, they get to embrace new practices that may be significantly different from the concepts explained through the theory. Black psychology theory is important to consider regarding experiences in the United States because African Americans are significantly affected by the problem of racism in this country (Brown, 2016; MacKay, 2012; Palombi, 2016; O’Gorman, 2012).

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It is difficult for many African Americans to fight off the feeling that they are second class citizens in the United States (Nobles, 2013). The theory will help in understanding specific factors in the American society that make it challenging for single African American mothers to raise their adolescent sons. According to Wilson et al. (2016), the social system in the United States, especially the problem of racism, disfavor blacks. The theory explains how this happens and the consequences that the affected population has to bear.

General System Theory, developed by Bertalanffy in 1968, is also relevant to this 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. In a family run by a single mother, it is expected that she will meet all the material needs of the child (Hanson, 2014).

When a mother is unable to meet the needs of the child satisfactorily due to challenges related to financial constraints (Elliott et al., 2015) then issues may begin to emerge. The child may lack some of the basic needs both at home (Brown, 2016). It is the responsibility of the parent to ensure that the child is properly fed. However, the current high cost of living makes it difficult for some of these families to have proper meals three times a day. Sometimes clothing may become an issue as the mother struggles to meet other urgent needs such as food and shelter.

According to Elliott et al., (2015), a child that comes from financially strained families may easily be tempted to get involved in criminal activities to earn extra income. They admire the lifestyle of some of their colleagues, which may make some of them feel frustrated. Brown (2016) also emphasizes the fact that parents whose children are engaged in criminal activities are often more stressed up than those with a disciplined adolescent. The parent would be directly affected by such illegal activities, especially if the child is arrested by the police. As the theory explains, once a unit within the entire system fails to function as expected, the entire unit will be affected (Bertalanffy, 1969). The study will determine the relevance of this theory in the modern American society.


Barajas, M. S. (2011). Academic achievement of children in single parent homes: A critical review. The Hilltop Review, 5(1), 13-21. Web.

Bertalanffy, L.. (1969). Organismic psychology and systems theory. Barre, MA: Clark University Press.

Brown, J. (2016). Commentary: Separations: A personal account of Bowen family systems theory. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 37(3), 340-341.

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Doody, O., & Noonan, M. (2013). Preparing and conducting interviews to collect data. Nurse Researcher, 20(5), 28-32. Web.

Elliott, S., Powell, R., & Brenton, J. (2015). Being a good mom: Low-income, Black single mothers negotiate intensive mothering. Journal of Family Issues, 36(3), 351-370. Web.

Hanson, B.G. (2014). General systems theory: Beginning with wholes. New York, NY: Routledge.

MacKay, L. (2012). Trauma and Bowen family systems theory: Working with adults who were abused as children. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 33(3), 232-241.

Mosley-Howard, G. S., & Evans, C. B. (2000). Relationships and contemporary experiences of the African American family: An ethnographic case study. Journal of Black Studies, 30(3), 428-452.

Nobles, W. W. (2013). Fundamental task and challenge of Black psychology. Journal of Black Psychology, 39(3), 292-299. Web.

O’Gorman, S. (2012). Attachment theory, family system theory, and the child presenting with significant behavioral concerns. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 31(3), 1-16.

Palombi, M. (2016). Separations: A personal account of Bowen family systems theory. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 37(3), 327-339.

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Parham, T. A. (Ed.). (2002). Counseling persons of African descent: Raising the bar of practitioner excellence. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Parham, T. A., Ajamu, A., & White, J. L. (2016).Psychology of Blacks: Centering our perspectives in the African consciousness (4th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Robinson, Q. L., & Werblow, J. (2013). The power of a single mother: The influence of Black women on their sons’ academic performance. Multicultural Perspectives, 15(4), 202-208.

Wilson, A. D., Henriksen, R. C., Bustamante, R., & Irby, B. (2016). Successful Black men from absent‐father homes and their resilient single mothers: A phenomenological study. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 44(3), 189-208. Web.

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