The proposed research topic is single African American females’ experience of being mothers to their adolescent sons, including their experiences of interacting with them (Elliott, Powell, & Brenton, 2015). The experience of the mother’s relationship with their sons, including how these mothers experienced the development of these relationships over time, will be investigated in the proposed study.
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It should be noted that African American mothers may parent their children differently depending on the children’s gender (Mandara, Murray, Telesford, Varner, & Richman, 2012), so it is justified to study the parenting of sons separately from the parenting of daughters. Also, maternal attitudes might affect the mother-child relationships, which, in turn, may have a major impact on the child’s development (Bernal & Keane, 2011; Robinson & Werblow, 2013). Therefore, the study will be concerned with the mother-son relationship as experienced by single African American mothers.
The topic is significant to the field of Psychology because it addresses the relationships between a mother and her son, investigating such aspects as their experiences of living, interacting, etc., with each other and emotions towards one another. This topic is also significant to the specialization of General Psychology due to the fact that it is related to several issues falling within the subfield of Family Psychology, such as relationships within the family, parent-child relationships, the mothers’ experience of these relationships, and the related emotional aspects.
According to the Programs Research document provided by Capella University (n.d.), Family Psychology is an acceptable subfield of General Psychology. The proposed study would fall into Division 43 of the American Psychological Association, Society for Couple and Family Psychology (American Psychological Association, 2017).
The research literature on the topic of single African American mothers indicates that nearly half of African American children live only with one parent. In the majority of cases, that parent is the mother (Barajas, 2011). According to a different study, in 2006, nearly 70% of African American children were delivered by single mothers (Choi & Jackson, 2011). Yet another study indicated that in 2002, 25% of African American females aged 22-44 were single mothers; for comparison, only 9% of White females were single mothers (Elliott et al., 2015, p.353).
In single-parent homes led by mothers, the mother-child relationship plays a pivotal role in the offspring’s development (Cartwright & Henriksen, 2012; Cooper & McLoyd, 2011; Robinson & Werblow, 2013; Williams & Bryan, 2013; Wilson, Henriksen, Bustamante, & Irby, 2016). It is also known that mothers behave differently towards their sons and towards their daughters; with sons, they may be more negative (Barnett & Scaramella, 2013) and less encouraging, warm, sympathetic, and accepting (Mandara et al., 2012); this might allow for assuming that sons could be in a slightly disadvantaged position with respect to maternal emotional support when compared to daughters (Emmen et al., 2013; Mesman, van Ijzendoorn, & Bakermans‐Kranenburg, 2012; van der Voort, Juffer, & Bakermans-Kranenburg, 2014; Yagmur, Mesman, Malda, Bakermans-Kranenburg, & Ekmekci, 2014), and justify the need to study the relationships between mothers and their children of different genders separately.
Also, single African American mothers often feel a great responsibility about parenting their child and the need to do so intensively (Elliott et al., 2015). What is not addressed in the literature is African American mothers’ experience of relationships with their sons in these relationships’ dynamics.
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Research Problem Background
The existing studies on the topic examined some issues faced by single African American mothers raising their children, such as an increased amount of responsibility such mothers have for their children due to the lack of a father (Cabrera, Fagan, Wight, & Schadler, 2011; Elliott et al., 2015; Jeynes, 2015; Landers‐Potts et al., 2015; Wilson et al., 2016), or racial and gender discrimination (Barajas, 2011; Roberts, 2011); and considered the adverse outcomes of the father’s absence in such families (Barajas, 2011; Choi & Jackson, 2011; Cooper, Osborne, Beck, & McLanahan, 2011; Dunbar, Perry, Cavanaugh, & Leerkes, 2015; Elliott et al., 2015; Farley & Kim-Spoon, 2014; Gonzalez, Jones, & Parent, 2014; Harris, Sutherland, & Hutchinson, 2013; Hines & Holcomb‐McCoy, 2013; Wang & Kenny, 2014; Wilson et al., 2016). However, personal relationships between single African American mothers and their sons were not investigated in these studies.
The research literature explored some aspects pertaining to parent-child relationships in general, as well as to some of the difficulties faced by single African American mothers raising their children (Roberts, 2011; Sneed, Somoza, Jones, & Alfaro, 2013; Williams & Bryan, 2013). For instance, studies indicated that fathers play a significant role in raising children in two-parent homes (Barajas, 2011; Choi & Jackson, 2011; Dunbar et al., 2015; Farley & Kim-Spoon, 2014; Gonzalez et al., 2014; Harris et al., 2013; Hines & Holcomb‐McCoy, 2013; Wang & Kenny, 2014); therefore, in fatherless families, mothers have increased responsibility for their children as they may have to compensate for the absence of the father (Cooper et al., 2011; Elliott et al., 2015; Wilson et al., 2016).
In addition, single African American mothers face much adversity in society due to racial and gender discrimination, which further complicates the matter of raising their children (Barajas, 2011; Roberts, 2011); for instance, they are often penalized by the criminal justice system, which only exacerbates their problems (Roberts, 2011); they often have to compensate for the absence of the father while raising their sons (Cabrera et al., 2011; Elliott et al., 2015; Jeynes, 2015; Landers‐Potts et al., 2015; Wilson et al., 2016). Additionally, mothers tend to be more negative and less warm, accepting, or supportive towards their sons than towards their daughters (Barnett & Scaramella, 2013; Mandara et al., 2012).
This may be due to the findings that children of single African American mothers, and boys, in particular, have worse life outcomes when compared to other children. For instance, African American boys raised by single mothers often drop out of school, engage in delinquent behaviors, and have lower academic success rates than their peers even when the former has a high potential (Barajas, 2011; Bernal & Keane, 2011; Ford & Moore, 2013; Milkie, Nomaguchi, & Denny, 2015; Pearl, French, Dumas, Moreland, & Prinz, 2012; Robinson & Werblow, 2013).
Given the importance of mothers for boys in mother-only African American families, the mother-son relationships in these families are paramount for the development of these sons (Cartwright & Henriksen, 2012; Robinson & Werblow, 2013; Wilson et al., 2016). However, the literature investigating such relationships in detail is scarce.
How do single African American mothers experience their relationships with their adolescent sons?
Definitions of key terms
- The term adolescence can be understood as the period of life when an individual is 11 to 16-year-old (Parent, Jones, Forehand, Cuellar, & Shoulberg, 2013). However, the current study will focus on early adolescence (the age of approximately 11-14) because there might be major differences between younger and older adolescents (Varner & Mandara, 2013).
- The term relationships will be 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).
- The term single African American mothers will be utilized in order 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).
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the proposed study is to investigate the perceptions of single African American mothers in their relationships with their young adolescent sons (i.e., sons aged 11-14; Varner & Mandara, 2013) and the manner in which these relationships develop over time. It is hoped that this study will contribute to gaining insights into improving life outcomes of such sons (e.g., preventing juvenile delinquency or increasing their academic success; Barajas, 2011; Roberts, 2011; Robinson & Werblow, 2013) by providing information that might help design interventions for these families to improve mother-son relationships in the future.
Methodology and Basic Design Overview
When it comes to the research design of the proposed study, it should be noted that it will be a generic qualitative study (Bell, 2014; Bernauer, Lichtman, Jacobs, & Robinson, 2013; Chenail, 2011; Percy, Kostere, & Kostere, 2015). This is justified because the study will investigate the personal opinions and feelings of single African American mothers about a particular issue (that is, about their relationships with their sons), which means that a generic qualitative method should be used (Kahlke, 2014; Percy et al., 2015, p. 76; Willgens et al., 2016).
Speaking more generally, the choice of a qualitative design is predicated on the idea that opinions and feelings can hardly be operationalized, meaning put into rigorously defined categories that would allow for quantitatively measuring them (Chenail, 2011; Katz, 2015; Smith, Bekker, & Cheater, 2011; Tricco et al., 2016). In fact, the nature of the problem (investigating personal opinions, emotions, and feelings) is such that it requires qualitative exploration rather than hypothesis testing (Katz, 2015; Lewis, 2015; Rabionet, 2011; Robinson, 2014; Wahyuni, 2012; Yilmaz, 2013).
Single African American mothers’ experience of relationships with sons: A qualitative investigation.
Advancing Scientific Knowledge
Some problems that exist in families comprised of single African American mothers and their sons, as well as certain issues that are related to the problem of relationships between these people, have been examined in the literature, as noted above. The adversity that such families face makes it important to investigate how these mothers experience their relationships with their sons in the dynamics of these relationships, for these dynamics are not reflected in the literature, which constitutes a gap.
This importance is evident because such an exploration may help with creating interventions aimed at bettering these relationships, which might improve life outcomes for both single African American mothers and their sons. Therefore, the proposed research question is related to the background of the study because answering it may shed additional light on the relationships between single African American mothers and their sons. It is grounded in the field of Psychology because it is aimed at investigating the mental states that mothers experience in relation to their sons.
Previous research has discovered that single mothers may have an increased amount of responsibility for their children because they cannot share that responsibility with the father (Cabrera et al., 2011; Elliott et al., 2015; Jeynes, 2015; Landers‐Potts et al., 2015; Wilson et al., 2016). It has also been found that many single African American mothers who have low income believe that they should make sacrifices for their children, be self-reliant, and protect their children; they do so at the cost of their physical or emotional well-being (Elliott et al., 2015). It is also known how successful African American men view their relationships with their single mothers (Wilson et al., 2016) or how single African American mothers may help their sons achieve academic success (Robinson & Weblow, 2012).
However, the literature does not appear to provide a direct answer to the research question for the proposed study, namely, “How do single African American mothers experience their relationships with their adolescent sons?” Therefore, the proposed study will advance the scientific knowledge base on the topic by contributing to the scientific understanding of the relationships between single African American mothers and their sons.
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. Such theories as Black psychology (or African psychology, or African-centered psychology, or Afro-centric psychology; these terms will be used interchangeably in the current work; Cokley, Awosogba, & Taylor, 2014; Mosley-Howard & Evans, 2000; Nobles, 2013a; Nobles, 2013b; Obasi, Speight, Rowe, Clark, & Turner-Essel, 2012; Parham, Ajamu, & White, 2016; Parham, 2002), and Bowen family systems theory (Brown, 2016; Haefner, 2014; Jankowski & Hooper, 2012; MacKay, 2012; O’Gorman, 2012; Palombi, 2016), will be utilized as the basis for the current study.
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Because of the use of the named theories, the proposed study may add to each of these theories by using them to explore these particular relationships, describing the lived experience of the participants, and, consequently, further refining these theories and adjusting them so as to enable them to be utilized for similar problems (Barajas, 2011; Robinson & Werblow, 2013; Wilson et al., 2016).
It should be useful to elaborate that Black psychology is a psychological theory that explains experiences of African individuals (or individuals of African origins) from a perspective that is grounded in 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 (e.g., mind-body or cognitive-affect dualisms; Parham et al., 2016).
Importantly, African worldviews include communal centeredness; a person is viewed primarily as part of their community (Parham, 2002, p. 14). Thus, when it comes to contributing to African psychology, the proposed study may allow for developing this theory further, which is due to the possibility that the opinions and experience of single African American mothers are based on the African worldview only partially, for most, if not all, of these mothers (and their families, including their ancestors) will probably have lived in the U.S. for a while, and will have had extensive contact with the Western culture (Parham et al., 2016; Parham, 2002).
Therefore, because the experience of single African American mothers of their relationships with their sons will be investigated, it will be possible to compare these perspectives with both the Western point of view and the African worldview; the latter comparison may prove helpful in advancing the Black psychology by providing information about the manner in which this African worldview has adapted to the U.S. culture. Thus, the theory of Black psychology will be advanced because knowledge will be gained on how African culture is transformed when its bearers are exposed to and assimilated into the U.S. culture.
As for the Bowen family systems theory, in essence, it views the family as a single, structured unit, and its members as individuals who are closely connected emotionally (Brown, 2016; MacKay, 2012; Palombi, 2016). This familial emotional interdependence allows for considerable cooperation and connectedness of family members, letting them better help and protect one another (Haefner, 2014). However, serious tension or problems of one family member tend to cause distress in their relatives as well (O’Gorman, 2012). This theory also includes eight key notions describing the main processes that may take place in a family (Haefner, 2014).
Employing the Bowen family systems theory may allow for better comprehending the relationships between single African American mothers and their adolescent sons. Also, if the knowledge provided by Black psychology is taken into account, it may be possible to check whether the Bowen family systems theory is fully applicable to families comprising the target population, which might provide a theoretical contribution to the latter theory. Using the Bowen family systems theory also may permit developing a better understanding of the modifications that were introduced to the African American way of thinking after the latter was subjected to exposure to the American culture, as opposed to traditional African cultures (Nobles, 2013a; Nobles, 2013b).
In addition, the study may have theoretical implications for General Psychology because it should permit understanding the feelings, emotions, and psychological issues that single African American mothers are faced with within their relationships with their sons, that is, in their families.
The proposed research may have a number of practical implications. For instance, it might allow for discovering some important peculiarities of relationships in question or comprehending how respondents view these relationships. Such understanding may be helpful for single African American females and their sons indirectly (Elliott et al., 2015; Milkie et al., 2015; Robinson & Werblow, 2013; Wilson et al., 2016) because it may permit psychologists and social workers too, e.g., design interventions for improving mother-son relationships in similar families.
The said theoretical findings of the manner in which African families were assimilated and about the connections in an African family might also be useful for educators who deal with such families by helping them understand the situation that these families might be in and assisting them with formulating the goals and methods of education for children of single African American mothers, for if these families are different from “typical” American families, it is possible that approaches and goals of education should be different for them as well.
The qualitative design for the proposed study will be a generic qualitative study (Kahlke, 2014; Percy et al., 2015). This approach is suitable for the problem to be investigated because it is needed to examine subjective opinions, beliefs, and attitudes of the study participants pertaining to certain external phenomena (such as African American mothers’ opinions on their relationships with their sons; Kahlke, 2014; Percy et al., 2015).
As for the research model, the inductive analysis (within the generic qualitative approach) will be employed (Bendassolli, 2013; Percy et al., 2015). In other words, the data will drive the researcher through the process of analysis, during which the repeating patterns will be found in the participants’ responses (Percy et al., 2015). From these patterns, themes will be created, which will then be synthesized so as to form an answer to 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 guiding the responses of the participants so as to keep them focused on the issues that are important for the proposed study (Dworkin, 2012; Irvine, Drew, & Sainsbury, 2013; Qu & Dumay, 2011; Rabionet, 2011). It should be noted that semi-structured interviews are an appropriate method for data collection in a generic qualitative study (Percy et al., 2015).
Population and Sample
The population for the current study will be comprised of single African American mothers who are raising one adolescent (aged 11-14) son (Fernandez, Butler, & Eyberg, 2011; Varner & Mandara, 2013). The said age interval (11-14 years) was chosen because, during this period of life, known as early 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 upbringing methods (Hahn et al., 2012; Varner & Mandara, 2013). This 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 will be needed to select females who only have one son (no daughters and no other sons) so that the relationships between the participant and her son would not be influenced by other children of the participant, for it might be expected that this would cause considerable differences between participants who do not have the same number of children. The mothers will also have to live together with their sons so that their relationship would be sufficiently close and also to reduce the heterogeneity of the sample.
The sample will consist of individuals aged 22-44 years (Elliott et al., 2015). This is conditioned by the fact that this range best reflects mothers with children who are adolescent or younger (as cited in Elliott et al., 2015), and most participants will be from that age range in any case; therefore, it is reasonable to look for participants of that age because it will allow for gaining opinions that may differ not mainly due to the large difference in the age of respondents.
However, it should be noted that there will probably be no participants aged 22 due to the requirement that they should have at least an 11-year-old son; it might be expected that most of the mothers will be at least in their late twenties. However, because some of the mothers might have produced their sons while still being teenagers, it was decided to keep the lower limit of the mothers’ age at 22, which is a number that is utilized in the research literature investigating connected topics (Elliott et al., 2015).
To sum up, the criteria for recruiting respondents for the study from the population of single African American mothers are as follows: 1) aged 22-44; 2) has one adolescent son who is 11-14 years old, and no other children; 3) lives together with that son. Consequently, the exclusion criteria for the study will include not meeting one of the said criteria. In addition, potential participants will be excluded from the study if they have a history of delinquency (former prisoners; individuals who had a substance addiction or suffered from abuse or domestic violence, etc.), or if they state that they know that their sons take part in delinquent behaviors such as substance abuse, participation in street gangs, and so on. This will also be needed to increase the heterogeneity of the sample so that the participants’ perceptions are not skewed significantly by their personal history.
The sample will consist of 8-15 individuals or from a number of participants, which is sufficient for achieving data saturation (Dworkin, 2012; Fusch & Ness, 2015; White, Oelke, & Friesen, 2012). The purposeful sampling method will be employed; that is, the participants will be selected according to the degree to which they possess the characteristics that are of interest for the study (Palinkas et al., 2015; Suri, 2011). It might be possible to recruit the participants for the research by contacting the local schools, the local School District officials, or by cooperating with local not-for-profit organizations (such as churches, YMCA, etc.) so as to attempt to find single African American mothers of currently adolescent sons, who would be suitable for the proposed study.
The proposed study was designed so as 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). The respondents or the researcher will not be subjected to additional risks, for the interviews will be conducted in a setting provided by the researcher (Fraga, 2016). The respondents will be interviewed using the semi-structured interview approach (Doody & Noonan, 2013; Rowley, 2012), which will also be designed to avoid sensitive topics (Hanson & Kerkhoff, 2011; Wester, 2011).
To protect the participants of the study while selecting the sample, the researcher will not reveal any personal information of the respondents to any third parties; after collecting the data and analyzing it, any contact information, as well as the information identifying participants with their recorded and transcribed interviews, if any, will be destroyed by the researcher (Borgman, 2012). Also, informed consent will be gained from each of the participants prior to involving them in the research. The participants will also be warned 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 moment.
During the data collection process, the participants will be assigned ID numbers that will allow for distinguishing between them later. The audio recordings of the interviews may be transcribed by hired parties, but no information about the participants will be revealed to them, and a written agreement will be made that they cannot provide this data to anyone else. After the data is collected and transcribed, the interviewees will be contacted and asked to review it and make any changes they deem necessary. After the data analysis, the information about the real names of the participants will be destroyed.
The data will be stored in a secure location protected by a password and will be destroyed seven years after the study is completed (Borgman, 2012). Also, the data will only be used for beneficent purposes – that is, to answer the questions 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.
Data Collection–Sampling Procedures
To recruit the participants, flyers and notices will be created asking single African American mothers of adolescent sons to take part in a study and containing the researcher’s contact information (email and phone number). Also, it is possible to offer a $10 gift to participants to make the invitation to participate slightly more attractive. Flyers and notices will be distributed in local community organizations where it is possible to meet groups of representatives of the target population, such as churches, sports or health clubs, YMCA, etc.
For instance, such churches as Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, Rio Vista Community Church, Christian Life Center, and so on, may be used for this purpose. Mosques and public libraries might also be visited. The person distributing the flyers will also try to talk to the individuals taking flyers so as to convince them to participate. It will be important to ask for permission to give a short presentation of the study during some events in these places, such as seminars or discussion gatherings.
At these gatherings, the researcher will present the study and ask the eligible persons to take part in the study; the leaders of the gatherings will also be asked to encourage the listeners to participate (e.g., these leaders will be provided with a script to support the invitation). Prior to the distribution of flyers and notices, permissions will be gained where appropriate. In addition, the information present on the flyers, including the contact information of the researcher (phone number and email), will also be distributed on social media such as Facebook.
The participants will be asked to provide the researcher with contact information where possible; the researcher will contact them at the time that the respondents will consider convenient, preferably within a day or two. The participants who will not share their contacts will be asked to contact the researcher by sending a letter to her email or by phoning her. The emails will be answered within a day. The phone calls will be answered personally. If the researcher is unavailable at the moment, a message will be given via an autoresponder asking the participants to leave their contact information and the time when they should be contacted.
When contacted on the phone or via email, the participants will also be screened, i.e., asked about their ethnic origins, marital status, and about having an adolescent son aged 11-14, in case they misunderstood the recruitment criteria. The researcher will use a script for phone calls and a similar prepared text for emails; these will include yes/no screening questions that will be formulated according to the inclusion/exclusion criteria. Those candidates who qualify will be recruited, and the means of delivering the informed consent form (email or regular mail) will be agreed upon.
Data Collection Procedures
The qualitative data (Bazeley, 2012; Jackson & Mazzei, 2013) will be collected from participants during personal interviews, which will be carried out in a private room in a public organization (such as a local public library, school, or university) that will be booked in advance. The respondents will be invited to take part after the booking is confirmed. If a respondent is unable to come personally, it will be possible to carry out an interview via a computer video call using such programs as Skype. The respondents will be warned that they should be alone in their room during the call (for approximately an hour). However, personal interviews will be preferred (i.e., if the number of participants who can arrive personally is sufficient, no Skype interviews will be conducted) due to privacy reasons.
Respondents will be invited to meet the researcher in the said private room, and the time for the meeting will be agreed upon. If a respondent cannot visit the researcher, a time for a Skype call will be agreed on. When the meeting begins, prior to starting the interview itself, a respondent will be given an alphanumeric designation (i.e., P1, P2, etc., for participant 1, participant 2, and so on) so as to maintain their privacy in the recording of the interview. The respondent will also be told that the participation is voluntary, that she can stop it anytime she wishes, and that she does not have to answer a question if they are not comfortable with it.
Then, she will be asked to sign an informed consent form and to give her consent verbally. If the interview is conducted online, a form will be signed electronically. After the informed consent is obtained, the participant will be given the $10 gift (if an interview is on Skype, methods will be agreed upon to deliver the gift), and the data collection procedure will begin; the audio recording will be turned on, the researcher will prepare for making notes, and the interview will start.
At the beginning of an interview, the researcher will ask a respondent to provide her with answers to the questions that will be asked, but to feel free to add anything the respondent wishes to add or believes is important. The interviewer will ask the questions in turn, once the interviewee has stopped answering the question and has been silent for at least 5-10 seconds (so that it is evident she does not want to add anything), and confirmed that there is nothing else that is important or that she wished to say to the current question, the next question will be asked.
In addition, the researcher might ask some additional short questions so that the participant would elaborate some details if needed; this will only be done if the participant has stopped speaking and has been silent for at least 5-10 seconds so as not to interrupt her. Also, the researcher will make field notes during the interview.
The interviews will last approximately an hour. After an interview is over, the recording devices will be turned off, and the data collection procedure from a given participant will be over. The researcher will thank the interviewee for her participation, and the meeting will end. The researcher will write down her impressions about the interview. The recordings and the researcher’s notes will be placed in a locked safe.
The audio recording will be transcribed by the researcher or by external transcribers; the identities of the respondents will be protected because, during the interviews, their names will not be used. All the data will be provided to transcribers on DVDs or flash devices, and the researcher will personally give the data and collect the transcribed data rather than send it via the Internet. All the master copies of the materials (electronic and paper) will be kept in the safe; the researcher will use working copies. The transcripts will be sent to participants to ask them if they agree that they represent their opinions, and it will be proposed to them to make the necessary changes if any. The data will be stored on CDs or DVDs in the safe, as well. Any computers temporarily containing the data will be protected with passwords.
Guiding Interview Questions
For this study, semi-structured interviews will be conducted. Respondents will be asked guiding questions and will be given as much time as they need to answer them. This allows the interviewees to express their opinions while keeping them speaking about issues that are of interest to the researcher. It should be observed that semi-structured interviews are a proper data collection method for a generic qualitative study, allowing for gathering information about external phenomena (Percy et al., 2015, p.79); it will permit obtaining respondents’ opinions and understanding their experience of their relationships with their adolescent sons (Ivey, 2012; Cooper, Chenail, & Fleming, 2012; Malterud, 2012; Vaismoradi, Turunen, & Bondas, 2013; Watkins, 2012).
The questions that will be used in the interviews are as follows:
- What is it like for you – being a single African American mother of an African American adolescent son?
- Describe your relationships with your adolescent son?
- What do you believe are the most important aspects of your relationship with your son?
- How have your relationships with your son changed over time?
- Have your relationships changed much since your son became an adolescent, or have they remained the same?
- How do you typically communicate with your son?
- Has your son’s schooling impacted your relationships?
- Do your son’s friends have an influence on your relationships?
- What other factors affect your relationships with your son?
- Are there any other important people or groups involved in your relationships with your son?
- Do you think that you give your son much freedom?
- If you can change any about your relationships, what would it be?
- Are there any other comments you wish to add or issues that you believe are important to discuss?
The data analysis will be carried out by using the method of coding (i.e., theme analysis) of the transcribed data (AlYahmady & Alabri, 2013; Campbell, Quincy, Osserman, & Pedersen, 2013; Chenail, 2012; de Casterle, Gastmans, Bryon, & Denier, 2012; Percy et al., 2015; Pierre & Jackson, 2014; Smith & Firth, 2011). This method is appropriate for a generic qualitative study (Percy et al., 2015). The theme analysis will be inductive, that is, data-driven (Percy et al., 2015). To conduct it, the following steps will be taken (Percy et al., 2015):
- All the transcribed data will be read several times. Then the researcher will start working with transcripts of separate interviews. First, an interview will be re-read. After that, the researcher will listen to the recording of that interview. It will then be re-read again; at this time, the parts that seem to be significant will be highlighted, but the significant parts that are irrelevant for the research question will be eliminated (although this data will still be stored in backup versions of the file; Percy et al., 2015);
- Pieces of data assigned codes, i.e., very brief descriptions of the contents (Percy et al., 2015);
- The parts of data that are connected will be clustered so that it will be possible to find patterns in it. Each pattern will also be given a short description. It may be possible to assign second-level codes to patterns if there is a need; these codes should be relevant to the field of psychology (Percy et al., 2015);
- After that, the patterns will be reviewed, and possible overarching themes will be found in the data. The patterns, codes, themes, and corresponding pieces of text will then be arranged into clusters (Campbell et al., 2013; Percy et al., 2015). Also, direct quotes from the participants’ interviews will be placed near the corresponding patterns with the purpose of elucidating the latter (Percy et al., 2015);
- This procedure will be carried out for the data gathered from each of the respondents. After that, the overarching patterns will be clustered and synthesized into themes; abstract descriptors will be assigned to these themes using terminology relevant to the field of psychology (Percy et al., 2015);
- The themes will be arranged into a matrix; the corresponding patterns that support these themes will also be included (Percy et al., 2015). Codes or descriptors will also be utilized for every data cluster provided in the matrix (Percy et al., 2015);
- For every theme present in the matrix, a detailed analysis that will provide a description of the essence and the scope of that theme will be written (Percy et al., 2015);
- Such a procedure will be carried out for the data collected from every one of the respondents of the study. After this process is complete, the themes and patterns that will consistently emerge across the data collected from separate respondents will be combined (Percy et al., 2015);
- At this point, it will be possible to use the themes to answer the research question and, probably, to propose the data’s interpretation based on the research theories adopted for this study (Percy et al., 2015).
Role of the Researcher
The role of the researcher is pivotal in the proposed study due to the fact that the credibility, dependability, and transferability of the said study depend upon the researcher (Patton, 2002). In fact, the credibility of the scholar is said to be a factor in the credibility of a study that the scholar carries out (Patton, 2002, p. 584). To ensure the transferability of a study, it is paramount that 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 requires careful planning of the steps to be taken during a study, their accurate execution, and precise description in the final work so as to ensure that other scholars can repeat that study (Patton, 2002).
The researcher expects that most of the participants will come from families of low socioeconomic status, that most of the respondents, for instance, will not have a college education, will have blue-collar professions, and so on (Benner, Boyle, & Sadler, 2016; Brody et al., 2014; Carneiro, Meghir, & Parey, 2013; Williams, Priest, & Anderson, 2016). However, it is pivotal to set these and other possible biases aside (Percy & Kostere, 2008).
Thus, the interviewer will attempt to remain neutral during the interview and will strictly adhere to the questionnaire (Percy & Kostere, 2008). The respondents’ words will not be commented on, and only neutral questions will be asked where necessary. To ensure that the data collection procedure stays neutral, the researcher will refrain from asking additional questions related to socioeconomic status, an interviewee’s education, and so on, unless these questions are included in the list of guiding questions for the interview. The researcher will also make a list of her possible preconceptions and, prior to asking an additional question, will look at the list and ensure that the question is not related to any of the items on the list.
In the process of data analysis, the researcher will withhold judgment; it will be important only to make conclusions based on the data (Percy et al., 2015). To do so, the researcher will also make a list of her biases, and each time, while making a conclusion, she will check the list to see if that conclusion originates from the analyzed data and is not derived from some items present on the list. In addition, the technique of generating and assessing rival conclusions will be used (Patton, 2002).
Explanations of why such conclusions were made from the data will also be written down and then reviewed by the researcher’s professor so as to ensure that the inference is data-based. Also, the researcher will include a list of her personal and professional issues (such as being Black, being a female, having experience of working as a mental health counselor, etc.) in order to ensure that the readers of the study are aware of potential biases of the researcher (Patton, 2002).
Credibility, Dependability, and Transferability
It is stated that in qualitative research, the notion of credibility is similar to that of internal validity used in quantitative research (Patton, 2002, p. 546); in other words, it is the degree to which the conclusions of the study are warranted. Furthermore, transferability is analogous to external validity (i.e., generalizability, meaning that the results should be similar for a similar sample of the same population), and dependability is similar to reliability (that is, the consistency and trustworthiness of the measure; Patton, 2002, p. 546).
Thus, credibility is highly relevant in the proposed study because high credibility is essential if the conclusions of the study are not to distort reality. If the study is not credible, its conclusions may provide misinformation to future researchers, as well as to professionals working with the population in question (e.g., social workers, educators), which may lead to harm to those whom they wish to help. Dependability is also relevant because it is pivotal that the perceptions that the respondents express are not distorted or severely misinterpreted by the researcher. Finally, transferability is relevant if the results of the study are to be usable by future researchers and specialists working with the target population (Patton, 2002).
The credibility of the study will be supported by the expertise of the researcher, who has the necessary credentials in the field of Psychology. The methods used for data collection and analysis will be reviewed by specialists in Psychology and will be followed as strictly as possible according to the plan. Also, the researcher will obtain assistance from her colleagues and from the faculty of the university to ensure that the conclusions made during the study are warranted.
The dependability of the study will be ensured by the fact that the researcher will describe all the necessary steps taken in the process of data collection, as well as all the steps required for data analysis. Finally, to ensure the transferability of the study, the researcher will only accept as respondents those people who meet the inclusion criteria and who are not filtered out according to the exclusion criteria. This will be done in the process of recruitment in order only to include participants who represent the target population.
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