A Qualitative Examination of the Maternal Racial Socialization of African American Preschool Children
Edwards, Adrienne Laney
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The salience of racial socialization among African American families has received considerable attention in the literature; however, few scholars have examined how the process of racial socialization unfolds in families with very young children. This study investigated how African American mothers of preschool-age children approached the process of racial socialization. I interviewed African American mothers who were at least age 18 (N=12) with biological children between the ages of three and five to explore the following: (a) the strategies and messages used during the racial socialization process, (b) how mothers' perceptions of colorism influenced the content of messages, and (c) mothers' perceptions of external forces that influenced their children's racial socialization experiences. I applied an integrated Black feminist-child development theoretical framework and grounded theory methodology to examine how African American mothers negotiated intersectionality when racially socializing their preschool-age children. Four major themes emerged from data analysis: motherwork as conscientization, bidirectional process in maternal racial socialization, skin tone politics in maternal racial socialization, and defining African American motherhood. From these themes, I concluded that mothers preferred to use cultural and egalitarian strategies and messages with their preschool-age children. Maternal racial socialization has a bidirectional component that involves mother-child conversations about race that occur when the child notices differences in people based on skin color, a race-related situation occurs, or the child initiates it. Colorism did not directly influence the content of racial socialization messages but did inform maternal interactions with extended family members. For African American women, motherhood is characterized by societal expectations and pressures for African American children.
- Doctoral Dissertations