Single African American Mothers and Their Relationship With Adolescent Sons

Abstract

The study focused on investigating the experience of single African American mothers of their relationship with their adolescent sons. The rationale for this study was to explain factors that affect the experience of these single mothers and what different stakeholders can do to improve the relationship. The review of the literature revealed that there is a knowledge gap as few studies have focused specifically on the experience of single African American mothers of their relationship with their adolescent sons.

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The researcher developed the following research question to guide the process of data collection and analysis: “How do single African American mothers experience their relationship with their adolescent sons?” In this study, face-to-face interview was critical in collecting data from sampled participants. The researcher chose generic qualitative analysis as the appropriate method of analyzing data collected from participants. A sample population of 8 participants aged 27-55 years helped in collecting the primary data.

The analysis identified three themes, affection, pride, and frustration as the main ways that define the experience of single African American mothers of their relationship with adolescent sons. The findings reveal that the experience of these single mothers vary a lot depending on various factors such as the level of discipline of the child, academic performance, economic situation of the family, and other social factors. The study recommends that future scholars should focus on the experience of adolescent sons raised by single mothers in the country.

Overview of the Previous Chapters

The generic qualitative research used both primary and secondary data sources to explain what single African American mothers go through as they raise their adolescent sons. The goal of the study was to identify the experiences of single African American mothers’ relationships with their adolescent sons. Chapter 1 of this paper provided a detailed background of the topic, outlining the objective and research question that guided the process of data collection.

The chapter also explained the rationale for conducting the research. The second chapter provided a review of literature. It was important to understand what other scholars have found out in this field and identify the possible knowledge gaps that still need the attention of other scholars. The third chapter explained the approach that the researcher used to collect and analyze data in the study. In chapter 4, the researcher provided a detailed generic qualitative analysis of primary data obtained from the participants.

Introduction

Chapter 5 of this report seeks to provide a summary and interpretation of data analyzed from the previous chapter. It integrates primary data obtained from the sampled participants and secondary data obtained from books, journal articles, and other reliable online sources. The goal of this chapter is to provide information that can lead to recommendations in reference to the experiences of single African American mothers’ relationship with their adolescent sons. The chapter outlines the summary of results, discussion, and conclusion made. It then gives a comparison of findings with theoretical framework and previous literature. It also provides interpretation of findings, limitations, and implications for practice. The chapter ends with recommendations for further research and a conclusion.

Summary of the Results

When conducting this study, the researcher developed a primary question that guided the entire process, “How do single African American mothers experience their relationship with their adolescent sons?” The research question reflected the purpose of the project, which was to identify the experiences of single African American mothers’ relationships with their adolescent sons. Single parenting is becoming an increasingly common phenomenon in the United States. A study by Hojjat and Moyer (2017) shows that the majority of these children are parented by their mothers after divorce, separation, or for other reasons that make it impossible for both parents to provide the needed care.

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The process of single parenting may be overwhelming to some of these single African American mothers. As Abramovitz (2018) observes, as difficult as providing the financial support for the family may be, parenting goes beyond that. One has to provide emotional and moral support for the child. Studies have shown that single mothers find it more challenging to raise an adolescent son than adolescent daughter does (Flavell, 2014).

At this critical stage, the child needs a role model, someone who understands the unique challenges associated with this stage of development. Given the fact that the mother did not go through such an experience, she may not have the practical knowledge on how to help the adolescent son. Identifying the experiences of these single mothers can help provide ways of improving the relationship for the benefit of both the mother and daughter.

The researcher chose a generic qualitative research approach as the most appropriate way of outlining the nature of this experience. A face-to-face interview with a sample of eight participants was sufficient based on the time, which was available for the project. The interview used open-ended (unstructured) questions to gather the information needed and each lasted 60 minutes. The researcher required the participants to describe their experience in their own words, providing justifications whenever it was necessary.

The participants had to meet specific criteria to qualify for the study. They had to be African American mothers aged 27-55 years residing in the United States, and with at least one adolescent son. Single mothers with mental health issues, those who have not been living in the United States, and those who are not staying with their adolescent children did not disqualify for the study.

The analysis primarily focused on identifying specific factors that defined the experience of single African American mothers of their relationship with their adolescent sons. According to Finer and Zolna (2016), the experience of single mothers when raising their adolescent sons without the support of their partners varies a lot depending on various variables. Factors such as the behavior of the child, the nature of relationship between the mother and her son, the level of economic strain that the mother has to go through to meet the basic needs, and the relationship that the mother had with the father of the child are some of the factors identified in the study. Understanding these factors may help in improving the relationship. The nature of questions made it possible for them to explain in details what they feel towards their children, and factors that defined their feelings.

When conducting this analysis, the researcher started by identifying patterns. Several patterns emerged from the analysis with the most common one being love. The participants expressed their love towards their adolescent children. Respect was another recurring pattern during the analysis. These parents explained that they expect their children to show them respect as a way of improving the experience and strengthening the relationship. Howard and McInnes (2013) argue that one of the main factors that often strain the parent-child relationship is lack of respect. Fear was an issue expressed by a number of the participants.

These single parents often have the fear of failing as a parent to provide the necessary support. Parental stress and responsibilities also emerged in the analysis. As Barajas (2011) observes, even if a single mother has a stable job, the pressure of meeting other non-financial needs of an adolescent son can be overwhelming. Direct quotes from the participants helped to support each of these patterns. The patterns helped to form themes used in the study.

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Thematic analysis of the primary data conducted led to the emergence of three themes in relation to the question, “How do single African American mothers experience their relationship with their adolescent sons?” These emerging themes were affection, pride, and frustration. These recurring themes effective describe the experience of single African American mothers of their relationship with their adolescent sons. These mothers are so affectionate of their sons. They explained that they love their adolescent sons and are willing to do everything within their powers to provide for them.

A sense of pride also emerged during the qualitative analysis process. These parents were proud of the fact that they have gone against all odds to provide for their sons without the support of their partners. It is a major achievement to most of them. It is important to note that frustration was another major theme that emerged. Providing for all the material, emotional, and moral support for these adolescent sons is not an easy task. Some of these parents explained that they have to take several jobs to make ends meet.

Discussion of the Results

The researcher asked each of the participants to explain her experience of the relationship with the adolescent son. The use of a questionnaire during the process of data analysis ensured that each respondent answered similar questions. However, it is important to note that the open-ended nature of the questions meant that the participants expressed their feelings in different ways. In some cases, the response given by one participant required further explanation while in other cases such clarifications were unnecessary. It was evident that the experiences of single African American mothers of their relationship with their adolescent sons vary depending on different factors.

When the researcher coded the primary data, the following themes emerged:

  1. affection,
  2. pride, and
  3. frustration.

The results obtained from these single African American women show that single parenting is a unique experience with numerous challenges. For African American mothers, the process has numerous challenges. The African American population has been historically a subject of racial injustices in the United States. The black psychology theory helps in understanding the numerous obstacles that African Americans face in the workplace and at school. These challenges often cause frustration to the mother and child respectively, which sometimes affect the nature of the relationship.

Systems theory also explains the challenges that women face in the American society. According to Choi and Jackson (2011), American women still earn less than their male colleagues do in the workplace while doing the same job. Overcoming the gender and raise bias may not be easy for these single parents. The results show that despite these challenges, the participants demonstrated their resolve to provide for their families and to guide their adolescent sons into being responsible adults.

Thematic analysis conducted show that the love that these parents have towards their children is sometimes the only motivation that they have to press on and meet the family needs. As African Americans, they are less likely to get well-paying jobs compared to their white colleagues with similar qualifications. As women, they have to contend with the prejudice in the American society that men are more capable in the workplace (Zinn, Hondagneu-Sotelo, & Messner, 2016).

Some of these parents explained that the high level of respect and understanding from their sons is a major motivation for them. Despite their tender age, some of these adolescents understand the difficulties that their parents go through and are less demanding. A few who noted that their relationship with their sons is strained explained that they are hurt when these children fail to appreciate their effort. As a parent, one expects her child to be respectful and understanding. They want these children to follow their guidelines and avoid getting into trouble (Abramovitz, 2018). As such, when they realize that the child is not obeying them, the relationship may be strained.

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The communal support emerged as an important factor that helps in defining the experience of single African American mothers of their relationship with the adolescent sons. One of the participants explained how her adolescent son developed a close relationship with his grandparent when the father walked out on the family. Several studies reviewed in this project supported the same argument. According to Elish-Piper (2013), institutions such as churches play a crucial role in offering the moral support for single African American mothers in the society. These children are able to get the support that the mother may not offer because of the gender difference.

Finer and Zolna (2016) warn that despite the importance of the society in raising a child, in some cases it may have a negative impact. As shown in the analysis, one participant explained that her relationship with her adolescent son is not good because he only considers his grandmother as a parent. He is less concerned about the wellbeing and emotions of his mother. Duncan, Ziol-Guest, and Kalil (2010) believe that within the community, an adolescent boy may learn habits such as smoking, taking alcohol or any other criminal acts when he associates with the wrong group. Such practices may put the son in trouble and strain the mother-son relationship.

The study found out that the majority of single African American mothers are aware of the socio-economic challenges that exist in the American society. As such, some have opted to take two jobs to make ends meet. One of the patterns observed was that most of these single parents have one or two children. Very few have more than three children. The pattern reflects the modern American society where the majority of families have three or less children (Abramovitz, 2018).

The single mothers understand the economic challenges, and they understand the fact that the only way of offering their children the best lifestyle they can afford is to limit their number. These parents have also come to appreciate the significance of education in the society. One of the respondents explained that she has a well-paying job because of her high academic qualifications and experience, and as such, she does not face any major challenges in trying to meet the needs of her small family. It is important to note that the researcher encountered limitations, which are discussed in details below.

Conclusions Based on the Results

The study shows that single parenting is becoming a common phenomenon in the United States, and in most of the cases, women have to care for these children. The analysis shows that the experience of single African American mothers of their adolescent sons vary significantly. As Finer and Zolna (2016) observe, a mother may have different experiences at different times based on events happening at a specific time. The affection may also depend on the behavior of the child (Kerkhoff & Hanson, 2013). Pride was another common theme that helped in describing the experience of single African American mothers of their relationship with adolescent sons. According to, every time a parent finds herself in a situation where she has to take care of her children without the support of her partner, there is always the fear of failing as a parent. Success in co-curriculum activities such as sports or arts may also make the parent proud.

Frustration was the third major theme that came out when analyzing primary data from participant. White, Oelke, and Friesen (2012) explain that the fear of failing as a single parent may actually make one to make wrong decisions. On the one hand, such a parent may want to express excess love to the child as a way of compensating for the absence of the father. She will ignore all the mistakes the child is committing and only focus on how to meet his needs. It is likely that such a child may get into mistakes knowing that there would be no consequences.

Comparison of Findings with Theoretical Framework and Previous Literature

When conducting a review of the literature, the researcher identified two main theories that can help in understanding the single African American mother’s experience of their relationship with their adolescent sons. The black psychology theory and systems theory helps to explain the nature of American society and the way it affects people of different races and gender. As a parent, there is always the hope that the relationship with every child would be good and without any negativities.

However, issues often emerge at the workplace, social gatherings, and at school that may strain the relationship. In this section, the researcher seeks to compare findings made from the analysis of primary data with theoretical framework and previous review of literature. The researcher will focus on the three themes identified in their analysis, their supporting patterns, and the way theories and literature reviewed support or reject the finding.

Affection

Affection was one of the most predominant themes that came out when conducting the analysis of the primary data. Respect and head of the household were the main patterns that supported this theme. Love and admiration were the supporting patterns for this theme. The respondents explained that they love their children and admire their commitment and success at school. This theme received support from the information obtained from the review of literature.

According to Finer and Zolna (2016), love is one of the natural feelings that parents have towards their children. Other factors held constant, the fact that the adolescent is her son is enough to make a mother love him unconditionally. Sometimes issues may arise such as indiscipline or underwhelming performance at school that may strain the relationship. However, such incidences do not diminish the love that exists between a son and his mother.

Abramovitz (2018) explains that sometimes a mother may decide to punish a child in different ways to help him understand the need to be responsible or to avoid taking a given path in life. However, that does not demonstrate the disaffection.

On the contrary, it is a sign of love, as indicated in the bible that a parent should guide the child towards a righteous path (Varner & Mandara, 2013). Studies have often indicated that the affection that mothers have towards their adolescent sons often grows stronger if the son is the only child in the family (Flavell, 2014). He would become the primary center of attention for the mother. As he gets into mid-teenage and understands the pain that the mother had to go through to provide the support that the family needs, he becomes a pillar in her life. The two would learn how to offer each other the emotional support whenever it is necessary.

Pride

Pride was another recurring theme in the analysis of the primary data. Most of the participants were proud of the fact that they were succeeding as parents despite the stress of having to provide for all the needs that children have as the only breadwinner of the family. This theme received reaffirmation from data obtained through the review of literature. Parenting is a challenging task, especially when one lacks the support of the child’s father. About half of all the respondents explained that they were proud to be the head of their families, making all the important decisions, most of which, turn out to be critical in the success of their firms. Flavell (2014) believes that the American society has transformed significantly over the past five decades as women are empowered.

In a family setting where both parents live and care for the children together, the father is the senior most authority. His decision may be final, especially when the two parents have a divergent view over an issue. However, for single parents they have to be the only authority in the house. Promes (2016) explains that single mothers must make decisions that would be of benefit to their families. When an adolescent son turns out to be a responsible young man who respects the law and committed to the family, it gives the mother a sense of joy and pride. It is a reminder that she made it without the support of others.

Abramovitz (2018) argues that in other cases, the pride simply comes from the fact that the woman is the head of the family. The fact that her decisions cannot be questioned by a man who purports to be the head of the family can be satisfying to some women. It gives them the motivation to press on and to offer their sons the best lifestyle they can afford.

Frustration

One of the recurring themes when analyzing the primary data collected from the participants was frustration. Anger, resentment, and fear were the main supporting patterns. Some of the participants explained that they angered by the mistakes committed by their adolescent sons. Abramovitz (2018) supports this sentiment by explaining that single parenting is a challenging task, especially when a child reaches the adolescent stage. Drug abuse is one of the most common problems with African American adolescent boys. These children would hang around wrong crowds that would introduce them to drug use.

The lack of a father figure in the family makes them feel that they are lacking something. To fill such a void, they would easily be swayed by the peer pressure and engage in such untoward practices just to get acceptance. Some of them become part of drug-peddling cartels within their neighborhoods. They end up putting their future on the line. Such behavior would be frustrating to the parent who struggles a lot to provide a better future for the child. Some parents tend to express their anger by punishing these adolescents in different ways to make them understand the dangers of such practices.

Resentment is a common pattern under this theme of frustration. Some of the respondents admitted that they resent the fact that they have to provide for their children alone without the support of the father. The resentment can be in the way the mother treats her adolescent child (Robinson & Werblow, 2013). When there is a strong sense of hatred between the mother and the father, such negative feelings can affect the child.

Interpretation of the Findings

In this study, the researcher relied on data from primary and secondary sources. The investigation revealed that the experience of single African American mothers of their relationship with their adolescent sons vary a lot depending on various factors. As shown in the primary data collected, it is not possible to explain the experience using one adjective because different situations may have varying impact on the feeling of the parent. At a time when the child performs well in school or follows instructions of the mother, she would be happy. Love and admiration are some of the patterns that would be associated with such a feeling.

A study by Tayler and Price (2016) confirms this argument by stating that many parents tend to be happy with the good deeds of their children. Although there is the inherent love that a mother has towards the child unconditionally, good behavior enhances the experience. Success of a child makes every parent proud.

Data obtained from both secondary and primary sources also indicate that sometimes the experience may not be pleasant. Frustration was a major theme in the analysis. Single parenting can be frustrating in the American society. Embrick (2015) explains that the United States has one of the highest costs of living in the world. Without a decent income, one can easily become homeless, and the situation can be worse for a single parent. Tough economic forces are some of the main causes of frustration among single African American mothers. The behavior and academic performance of the adolescent son may also cause pain and frustration to the mother who struggles to provide the basic needs.

Limitations

When conducting this generic qualitative analysis, the researcher encountered some limitations worth discussing at this stage of the report. One of the main limitations was that this method of analyzing data does not involve the use of statistical approaches of analysis. It means that one cannot calculate the prevalence of a given issue when using this method. For instance, resentment was a major concern among single African American mothers parenting adolescent sons.

The method is not effective in determining the prevalence of such feelings among the affected population. As Damaske, Bratter, and Frech (2017) explain, although the method is effective in explaining a phenomenon, it lacks the capacity to demonstrate the magnitude of an issue. Despite this limitation, this method was effective in addressing the objective of the study and answering the research question.

Time was another major limitation when collecting primary data. Single parenting has become a common phenomenon in the United States that affects millions of people. It was desirable to collect data from at least 50 people who meet the inclusion criteria explained in the methodology section. However, the researcher realized that identifying these individuals and convincing them to be part of the study is a challenging process. The time that was available meant that only eight participants could participate in the study. A sample size of eight participants is rather small but it was reasonable because of the time factor. To address this shortcoming, the researcher used numerous books, articles, and recently published online sources to understand the issue under investigation.

Implications for Practice

When conducting an academic study, Evans (2014) notes that one should strive to make an impact in a given field. The study should address the existing knowledge gaps or reaffirm the existing theories. The researcher classified implications of this study into two, practical implications and theoretical implications. It is important to discuss each of them.

Practical Implications

The study has demonstrated the experience of single African American mothers of their relationship with their adolescent sons. Affection, pride, and frustration are some of the main themes that emerged in this study to explain the experience. This document seeks to improve the experience of these single mothers as they struggle to raise their children without the support of their partners. As such, it was important to explain how parents can enhance the feeling of love, affection, and pride and reduce frustrations. The study has identified different issues that cause frustration among these single mothers when parenting their adolescent sons.

For instance, misdemeanor was as a factor that can case anger and frustration among these parents. The study has identified what mothers can do to ensure that they guide their sons towards a path of success, responsible behavior, and respect to the law. Following these guidelines can practically help parents to improve their relationship with their sons and overcome some of the obstacles they often face. Family counselors can use this document as a guide that can help them understand the experiences that these women go through when parenting their children.

Theoretical Implications

This study has demonstrated the relevance of some of the common theories used in the United States. The black psychology theory is one such concept whose relevance this project has been reaffirmed. It may be true that the fight against racism in the society has gained momentum. However, Marotz and Kupzyk (2018) note that opportunities that African Americans have in the workplace cannot be compared with that of the whites. Many employers still prefer hiring whites because of the existing of prejudicial beliefs and practices in the society. Studies also show that African Americans earn relatively less compared with their white colleagues (Benner, Boyle, & Sadler, 2016).

System theory is also a relevant theory when focusing on the experience of single mothers who have to care for their children without the support of their mothers. The society still view women as being the caregiver for their children, as explained in this theory. The statistics show that an overwhelming majority of children who are single-parented are under the care of their mothers. As such, the relevance of these two theories has received support from primary and secondary data used in this study.

Recommendations for Further Research

In this study, the researcher conducted an extensive investigation about the experience of single African American mothers of their relationship with their adolescent sons. However, it is important to appreciate the need for further investigation on topics related to this so that a more comprehensive solution emerges to address the problem of women having to bear the financial, emotional, and moral support of caring for a child.

One of the areas that need further investigation is the experience of African American adolescent boys under the care of single mothers. This study focused on the experience of these single mothers. It is necessary to conduct a study to explain the experience of these adolescent sons and the way they view the whole situation. Scholars should investigate whether they understand the unique challenge that their mothers go through to meet their needs and what they can do to improve the relationship.

Devarakonda (2013) explains that one of the best ways of improving mother-son relationship is to ensure that the child understands and appreciates the difficulty of single parenting. Some of these children do not even realize the magnitude of the sacrifice that their parents make to meet the family’s financial needs. Further scholars also need to investigate why some men fail to be responsible to their children after the divorce. Courts may give an order on how the two parents should share the responsibility, but that does not mean both will respect the directive. It is necessary for scholars to investigate why a father would disappear from the life of his son and fail to provide the needs.

Conclusion

The primary goal of this qualitative study was to investigate the experience of single African American mothers of their relationship with their adolescent sons. The study shows that cases of single parenting are on the rise in the country. Divorce and separation are some of the main causes of the phenomenon. Death accounts for a small portion of cases of single parenting. Data obtained from primary and secondary sources show that issues such as infidelity, financial disagreements, and incompatibility on various socio-economic and political issues are some of the leading causes of divorce or separation in the country. Single mothers often care for an overwhelming majority of these children.

The experience of these single African American mothers of their relationship with their adolescent sons is evident and described using three themes, (a) affection, (b) pride, and (c) frustration. There is the natural love that these parents have towards their children. The fact that the adolescent is her son and that she is doing everything within her powers to provide for him gives her a sense of joy. When the child registers an impressive academic performance or does something admirable in the society, the mother would be happy. It makes the mother proud. The study also shows that the behavior of the child is a major factor that defines the experience.

It is emotionally demanding for a mother to provide all the material and non-material needs of the adolescent. Some of these children often understand and appreciate the pain that their parents go through. They even offer their mothers the emotional support and promise them a better future. The pride of the parent stems from the success and the level of discipline that he has in the society. When the child is a role model to his peers, the mother would be proud because it shows that she has succeeded in guiding him towards the right path.

The study has identified frustration as a major issue that needs attention to improve the experience of these single mothers. One of the most frustrating experiences that they have is lack of discipline and appreciation on the side of their sons. When the son fails to appreciate the challenges that the mother goes through, it becomes painful for these mothers. Economic challenges may also strain the relationship between a single mother and her son.

The son may want a lifestyle that the mother cannot provide. The strained relationship between the single mother and the father of her son may also affect the experience. The study shows that in some cases the son may be a sad reminder of the suffering that the mother went through. Such feelings make it impossible to have a good mother-son experience.

Reference

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