Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Abbey Eisenhower

Second Advisor

Heidi Levitt

Third Advisor

Laurel Wainwright


Influenced by the social and political climate in the United States, by the intersecting systems of race, class and gender, diverse groups of mothers have developed distinct mothering values. There is a clear understanding of the history of common mothering values among Black women in the U.S. (Collins, 2000). However, there is limited information about modern common motherhood ideals among Black mothers, and even less information about the relation between mothering ideals and Black women’s mental health. The current study adds to this literature by exploring the narratives of Black student mothers, a sizeable but often-invisible subgroup of Black mothers. Semi-structured, individual interviews were conducted with Black mothers (N=15) who were enrolled in classes at an urban, public university in the Northeastern U.S. Results from a grounded theory analysis revealed a conceptual hierarchy illustrating the processes through which Black mothers reflect upon and balance their multiple roles. Specifically, participants identified their motivation to pursue higher education as founded in two fundamental desires: (1) to provide better lives for their children and for future generations of Black children, and (2) to create more positive and varied narratives for Black mothers. Implications for future research, for clinicians, and for universities educating Black student mothers are discussed.


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