Single African American Mothers’ Experiences With Sons

Background of the Study

Parenting adolescents is a challenging task in the modern American society. The problem is compounded when one is forced to raise such teenagers as a single mother. According to Elliott, Powell, and Brenton (2015), recent statistics showed that about half of African American children are raised by single parents. The study also indicates that 70% of single parents are mothers. Johnsen and Friborg (2015) stated that many single mothers are forced to raise their children without the emotional and financial support from male partners who fathered these children. 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.

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Some children are open with their parents and can express themselves effectively when they are dealing with issues affecting them at school or at home. Others prefer not to express their issues to the parents. The choice of being open or not largely depends on the relationship that has been developed between a parent and a child (Cokley, Awosogba, & Taylor, 2014).

A parent who spends most of the time working to provide for the family may not have time to monitor trends and behavioral patterns of their children unless an issue is brought to their attention by a teacher or a neighbor. Leman (2015) argued that it is possible for a child to deviate from the standard norms and behavior expected by the society without the knowledge of the parent. Identifying the experiences of single mothers of their relationship with their adolescent sons is critical in this study.

The relationship that single mothers have when parenting adolescent sons is different from that of an adolescent daughters. According to Groh, Fearon, Jzendoorn, Bakermans‐Kranenburg, and Roisman (2017), parenting a boy child is different from parenting a girl child. Leech (2016) also noted the approach that a female parent would take to parent an adolescent boy is different from that which is taken when parenting an adolescent girl. As a child develops into an adolescent stage, there are physiological and emotional developments they experience that may be challenging for them to understand (Benner, Boyle, & Sadler, 2016).

Children begin to understand their sexuality and struggle to deal with their emotions. At this stage, a teenage boy would need the support of a father who understands this developmental stage based on experience. Maynard, Salas-Wright, and Vaughn (2015) explained that it is easier for a teenage boy to seek help from adult males than from adult females. Unfortunately, the majority of these single parented young boys are raised by their mothers. In such families, the only adult member of the family is the female parent.

A report by Cohn (2016) found that a majority of these adolescent boys raised by female parents rarely share their experiences with their mothers. Many adolescent boys suffer in silence and are easily convinced to join groups that may lead them astray. Parents learn about the problems these children face when something serious has happened (Maudry-Beverley, 2014). Parents are forced to deal with the financial loss caused by the actions of their children. In extreme cases, it is often too late for the parent to act when these children ultimately lose their lives while engaging in dangerous activities due to peer pressure. The ability of a parent to guide and protect a child depends on the personal relationship between the two.

According to Wu, Appleman, Salazar, and Ong (2015), when parenting fails, it affects the entire community. Juvenile delinquency in the American society today may not be as bad as it was in the 1980s and part of the 1990s (Leech, 2016). However, cases are still reported by adolescents who engage in smuggling of drugs, burglary, robbery, and other criminal offenses. In most of the cases, the victims of such criminal acts are members of the public.

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Slonim (2014) argued that some male adolescents engage in criminal acts because they sympathize with their single mothers who have to work several jobs to provide for the family. In their mind, they believe that engaging in such acts can help reduce the burden on their parents, especially if they can get enough cash that makes it unnecessary to ask for the same (Leech, 2016). The psychological trauma that some of these adolescents go through because of lack of support from parents can transform them into dangerous criminals in the society. In a study by Slonim (2014), most of the serial killers had unstable parenting.

They grow up harboring bitterness against a section of the society, believing it was responsible for the pain they went through in their youth. They then try to revenge against these individuals. Cases where adolescents go to school with guns and then kill their innocent colleagues were common. Some of these cases are reported by the American media while many others are not (Johnsen & Friborg, 2015). Failing to nurture these adolescent boys into responsible and law-abiding men is a danger to the American society.

Psychologists in institutions of healthcare and guidance and counseling teachers may find this information critical in their fields. Stress-related health complications such as high blood pressure, stroke, and cardiovascular diseases are becoming common in the United States (Peleg, Vilchinsky, Fisher, Khaskia, & Mosseri, 2017). The African American females are some of the worst affected group, as Ebert et al. (2015) admited.

One of the primary causes of stress among single parents is how to provide for the family while at the same time taking care of the social and emotional needs of their children (Cooper & Norcross, 2016). The document intended to provide important information on how psychologists can handle parents who were faced with such challenges. The report is expected to provide ways in which these parents can be supported in their parenting duties. Snyder (2016) explained that families that embraced specific religion may get the support needed from members of their community. Instead of bearing the psychological burden alone, a parent can get the support of a church member to help in addressing some of the emotional needs of an adolescent son (Johnsen & Friborg, 2015).

Guidance and counseling teachers may find the document important when trying to meet the social and emotional needs of the adolescent boys at school. They may understand factors that influence the relationship between adolescents and adults in a social setting. The current study sought to identify the experiences of single African American mothers, which is a critical aspect of personal relationships. A study by Elliott et al. (2015) reported that approximately half of African American children are raised by single parents.

The experience of single African American mothers can only be expressed by the affected group. Barnett and Scaramella (2013) explained that it can be frustrating for a single parent to learn that providing food, shelter, education, healthcare, and other basic needs is not enough when it comes to parenting. Other single mothers are forced to take two or three jobs to make ends meet, but that is not everything the family needs.

A mother’s attention is equally needed, especially in cases where there is no other adult in the immediate family that can offer guidance to the children (Hirsch, Dierkhising, & Herz, 2018). Single mothers have to find ways of balancing their limited time between working several jobs a day and providing their adolescent sons the attention they need. In the current study, the purpose was to identify single African American females’ experiences of being mothers to their adolescent sons.

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Need for the Study

The chosen topic was relatively new in the field of parenting in American society. The study is needed to identify the experiences of single African American single mothers’ relationship with their adolescent sons. Scholars have conducted broad studies on single parenting, as Weinrath, Donatelli, and Murchison (2016) observed, however, there is a lack of peer-reviewed research on identifying the experiences of single African American mothers’ relationships 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 that the problem of single parenting is more common among African American females than it is among white females (Evans, 2014). Finding appropriate ways of improving the experience of these parents may be necessary as the problem became more prevalent among the targeted group (Cohn, 2016).

The current study seeks to identify the experiences of single African American mothers’ relationship with their adolescent sons. Factors that define these experiences were discussed based on data collected from both primary and secondary sources. In this project, the researcher also looked at the manner in which these single parents cope with various socioeconomic and emotional challenges when parenting their adolescent sons.

These parents should not give up despite the psychological trauma they have to endure (Pachankis, Hatzenbuehler, Rendina, Safren, & Parsons, 2015). However, they need some form of support to overcome some of the painful experiences. Through this study, it may be possible to fill a gap in the 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.

A study conducted by Johnsen and Friborg (2015) showed that the majority of single mothers prefer having girls to boys. They believe that it is more challenging to parent adolescent boys because of their rebellious nature. The negative attitude that some of these parents have cannot only worsen the experience, but also deny the affected children the affection they need from the parent. Adolescent sons can easily become resentful adults who cannot sustain meaningful relationships or avoid breaking the law (Cooper & Norcross, 2016). A study of the critical issue of identifying the experiences of single African American mothers’ experiences with their adolescent sons is a social problem that needs to be addressed by the psychological community.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to identify how single African- American mothers experience their relationship with their adolescent sons. According to a study by Slonim (2014), single mothers found it more difficult to parent their adolescent sons than to parent adolescent girls. Since mothers may have had similar experiences, they may be able to relate easily to the physiological and emotional changes their daughters’ experience. It is also easy for female parents to talk about sexual health and sexuality of their adolescent daughters, a very important topic for adolescents (Williams, Ryan, Davis-Kean, McLoyd, & Schulenberg, 2017). However, the same cannot be said for single mothers parenting adolescent sons.

Snyder (2016) believed that although American society has made significant steps in fighting stereotypes and traditional concepts that made it a 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 cannot talk about it.

The study by Snyder (2016) identified various challenges single African American mothers go through and the manner in which it affects their ability to care for these adolescent to become responsible and successful adults. Doody and Noonan (2013) explained that although the society knows the problem exists, 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 on the experiences of single African American mothers’ relationship with their adolescent sons.

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Significance of the Study

The current study is of significance to the field of psychology and American society because it focuses on issues that directly affect a significant portion of the American population. The findings of the current study may help identify the experiences of single African American mothers’ relationships with their sons. Theories relating to single parenting and the unique challenges that African Americans go through in this society have been developed by various scholars (Williams & Smalls, 2015).

However, it is important to note that as society continues to experience social, economic, political, and technological changes, some of these theories are becoming irrelevant (Cooper & Norcross, 2016). Through the current study, it may be possible, through the use of the generic qualitative design, to identify how black psychology theory, and family systems theory can be used to identify the experiences of single African American mothers. The findings and results of the study may identify the experiences of single African American mothers’ relationship with adolescent sons.

Research Question

The researcher considered it appropriate to develop research questions that would guide the process of investigation in this paper. The following is the primary research question of the study:

How do single African-American Mother’s experience their relationship with their adolescent sons?

It was also necessary to develop sub-question to facilitate the process of data collection in this qualitative research. The following sub-questions were used:

  1. What are the main factors that define single African American mother’s experience of their relationship with their adolescent sons?
  2. How does the experience differ from one single mother to another?
  3. What are some of the ways that can be used by the American society to improve the experience?

Definition of Terms

  • Adolescence: 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 towards becoming an adult.
  • African American: an ethnic group in the United States with partial or total ancestry from Africa (Baudin, Croix, & Gobbi, 2015). In this study, it refers to the Afro American population in the country.
  • Communal: 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 that they bear some responsibility of ensuring that everything happens as per expectations. In this case, it refers to the feeling by some people that they are obliged to help in every little way to help others, especially single parents, when parenting adolescents.
  • Demographic: the structure of the society as defined by factors such as race, religion, gender, level of income among others (Abramovitz, 2018). In the study, the primary focus group was single African American mothers.
  • Experience: an encounter that leaves a lasting impression on a person (Zinn, Hondagneu-Sotelo, & Messner, 2016). In this case, it refers to the encounter that single African American mothers have when parenting their adolescent sons. The study is focused on investigating how single African-American mothers’ experience their relationship with their adolescent sons. This phenomenon was investigated by directly interviewing the single mothers in this qualitative research.
  • Parenting: it refers 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 is not focused on the process of parenting itself but the experience that single African American mothers have when doing so, especially of their relationship with their adolescent sons.
  • Racism: 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 United States and often has serious impact on the affected group, mostly the African American. It creates numerous challenges both at school and at work, and the impact may affect family relationships.
  • Single mother: a scenario where a mother has to support and promoting the physical, social, intellectual, and emotional development of a child, from infancy to adulthood in the absence of the father (Spring, 2016). Some of them go through challenging experiences having to meet both the emotional and economic needs of these adolescents without the direct support of the co-parent.
  • Social class: a societal division that is based on one’s socioeconomic status (Finer & Zolna, 2016). In the United States, the issue of social class, based on one’s economic power, is important when it comes to parenting.

Research Design

The most appropriate design for this study was the qualitative research method. When identifying the experiences of single African American mothers’ relationships with their adolescent sons, statistical analysis may be irrelevant (Ehde, Dillworth, & Turner, 2014). The experience of some parents may be so unique that it may not be possible to generalize through inferential statistics. Allowing mothers to identify their experiences may enable the researcher to identify themes. A qualitative research design can facilitate a comprehensive investigation of why the problem exists in this society and what can be done to address it (Johnsen & Friborg, 2015).

The study seeks to identify how single African American mothers can parent their adolescent sons, with the help of teachers, religious leaders, and members of their community, in a way that minimizes the negative experiences. Qualitative data can be collected and analyzed to identify areas of improvement needed to protect members of the society to ensure that parenting of the adolescents becomes a communal responsibility, rather than being viewed as a sole responsibility of the parent (Cooper & Norcross, 2016). The chosen design should enable the researcher to achieve objectives of the study.

Assumptions and Limitations

There were a number of assumptions and limitations, which should be outlined in this stage of the project. According to Evans (2014), it is important to explain assumptions and limitations in the study to help those who may need to use it to inform their policies. These factors help them to understand the relevance of the study and its applicability in various settings. As such, care was taken to ensure that these factors are explained in clear terms.


In social sciences, it may not be possible to control different factors relevant to the study. Leman (2015) explained that social scientists can only make assumptions because of the inability to control actions and decision of human beings. One of the primary assumptions made in this study is that single African American mothers have similar experiences of their relationships with the adolescent sons if they share similar socioeconomic factors.

According to Leman (2015), the experience that every single mother has of the relationship with an adolescent son varies and depends 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 such an assumption when conducting this research.

The researcher made the assumption that participants would accept the small gift of twenty dollars to participate in this study. According to Finer and Zolna (2016), convincing a single parent to spend about one hour in an interview may not be easy. This assumption that parents would accept the gift was made to help in the data collection process. Some of these single parents would not accept the compensation because of various personal reasons (Abramovitz, 2018). However, the gift was considered a good motivation to increase the response rate in the study. It would make participants more committed to the study. The introduction of the gift made the researcher assume that it would be easy to get participants to interview.

The researcher also made theoretical assumptions in the study. 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 Afro American in the United States.

The country has made impressive steps in fighting racism and other factors that divide the country into groups based on one’s skin color (Spring, 2016). The election of the first African American president was seen as a major step towards creating a society that is tolerant towards cultural diversity. However, Leman (2015) argued that the problem of racism is still a real problem in this society. Being an African American is still not easy for students and job seekers.

According to Abramovitz (2018), a white student is more likely to get admitted to a good college than a Afro American colleague with the same academic qualification. Similarly, many employers are more willing to hire whites than Afro American even in cases where the African American has better qualifications for the job. Every African American has to deal with these realities at all times. As such, the assumption makes it easy for the researcher to believe that all African American mothers face the same problem. It may be possible that the single mother is financially empowered and may not have problems meeting the family’s economic needs.

However, the financial empowerment does not shield her from the psychological consequences of being Afro American (Spring, 2016). It does not shield her from discrimination amongst her peers. Such forms of discrimination have direct impact on the experience that these single mothers have when parenting their adolescent sons.


Identifying and discussing limitations is critical, especially for those who may be interested in using the document to inform various policy issues. One of the major limitations was that data was only collected from 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 this state.

However, it was not possible to collect data from the entire population within such a short period. 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 are currently residing in the state of Florida. Although it would be 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 take part in the investigations.

Data used in this were collected from single African American mothers. Leman (2015) advised that when collecting data, it is critical to ensure that the right people are investigated. The most appropriate people to provide information about the experience are the single mothers themselves. They understand what they go through when parenting these adolescents. No one can purport to understand this experience better than individuals who are directly affected.

Interviewing only single African American mothers was considered a limitation because it minimized the ability to have a comprehensive understanding of the issue. Evans (2014) argued that sometimes it may be necessary to get the perspective of everyone involved. While the views of the single mothers are critical for the study, it would also be vital to understand what these adolescent sons have to say about their relationship with the parents. Although the study does not focus on the experience of these sons of 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 possibly exist between a mother and a child. The genesis of some of the complaints and frustrations that these parents have towards their children could be clarified when these adolescents were to be interviewed. Unfortunately, that was not possible.


The researcher considered it appropriate to discuss artificial boundaries in the study. One of the most critical areas of study that the researcher intentionally decided not to investigate was the experience of adolescents of their relationship with their mothers. Adolescent sons go through many challenges when they have to be 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 that there were issues that adolescent sons cannot discuss with their mothers but can share with their fathers. When they have to be raised by single mothers, 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.

Briefly understanding their experience before looking at the experience of the single mothers would have been a good way of conducting the investigation. 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. It provided a further understanding of the issue that was investigated in this paper.

Organization of the Remainder of the Study

Chapter one has provided a detailed discussion of the background of the research and the problem the study seeks to address. The chapter is comprised of eight sections. The first section provided background of the problem and need for the study. The next section discussed the need and purpose of the study. The significance of the research was also discussed to provide a rationale for the study. The research questions and design were outlined.

Assumptions, limitations, and definition of terms were also provided in this chapter. The dissertation has five chapters. The chapter provides the goal that should be achieved. Chapter two is a detailed review of literature. Chapter three discusses the methods used to collect and analyze data, while chapter four is the analysis of data collected from the participants. Chapter five concludes the paper and provides recommendations for future research.


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Chetty, R., Hendren, N., Kline, P., & Saez, E. (2014). Where is the land of Opportunity? The geography of intergenerational mobility in the United States. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 129(4), 1553–1623.

Donnelly, K., Twenge, J.M., Clark, M., Shaikh, S.K., Beiler-May, A., & Carter, N.T. (2015). Attitudes toward women’s work and family roles in the United States, 1976–2013. Sage Journals, 40(1), 41-54.

Evans, T. (2014). Help and Hope for the Single Parent. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

Finer, L.B., &. Zolna, M.R. (2016). Declines in unintended pregnancy in the United States: 2008–2011. The New England Journal of Medicine, 60(4). Web.

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Manning, W.D., Brown, S.L., & Stykes, J.B. (2014). Family Complexity among Children in the United States. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 654(1), 48-65.

Schneider, B., & Coleman, J.S. (Eds.) (2018). Parenting, their children, and schools (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Spring, J. (2016). Deculturalization and the Struggle for Equality. New York, NY: Routledge.

Zinn, M.B., Hondagneu-Sotelo, P., & Messner, M.A. (2016). Gender through the prism of difference. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

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StudyCorgi. 2020. "Single African American Mothers’ Experiences With Sons." December 29, 2020.


StudyCorgi. (2020) 'Single African American Mothers’ Experiences With Sons'. 29 December.

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