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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Participants in eight focus groups were 44 Black women, ranging in age from 18 to 91, from the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Transcribed focus group data were coded via a qualitative data analysis software program. Implications for research and practice related to Black marriage, family, and parenting relationships are discussed.

Black women and men in the United States share a complex and painful history of racial exclusion, discrimination, injustice, and economic hardship Collins, The life experiences of Black women and men can be uniquely and partially contoured by gender role beliefs Collins, By investigating such perceptions through qualitative inquiry, the present study fills a gap in the literature that has neglected the voices of women who most often partner with Black men and who are most responsible for rearing and socializing Black boys into men.

Additionally, by analyzing the perspectives of Black women, the current study better contextualizes the overarching Black gender ideologies that encompass racialized gendered perceptions, expectations, and behaviors. As such, the information presented herein stands to diversify and augment extant gender role research that has largely collapsed the experiences and perceptions of men into a single hegemonic version, one largely representative of White middle-class men.

Gender role beliefs reflect expectations associated with various roles of men and women. Gender schemas are mental systems of associations that categorize and guide gendered beliefs, expectations, and behaviors. According to gender schema theory, gender meanings are constructed and maintained through cognitive organization and interpretation Bem, , Social role theory also helps us to understand that gender role beliefs are complex and can be influenced by social situations and environmental factors Eagly, This theory is built on the premise that men and women behave differently based on societal expectations.

These expectations and their associated behavioral differences emerge in the home, the workforce, and other social situations. The Black gender ideologies to which Black women subscribe and the systems that inform them can indirectly and directly shape the behaviors of Black men Collins, Using gender schemas, Black women filter their micro, meso, and macro environments for gender-associated information.

This information is then used to define Black manhood and guides relational engagement. Thus, how Black women perceive and engage Black men is a byproduct of the interaction between shared environmental conditions and culturally specific gendered perceptions.

Discussions of U. Notwithstanding, limited scientific research regarding Black gender ideologies of Black women exists. To date, no known scientific studies have qualitatively examined Black gender ideologies of Black women as they relate to Black men. Are they as antagonistic as assumed?

Of the minimal studies that highlight Black relationships and Black gender ideologies of Black women, most focus on gendered power. According to Cowdery and colleagues , because Black men experience a lack of respect in society and low societal power, Black women attempt to buffer these negative experiences by accepting more traditional gender roles in the home. Chambers and Kravitz suggest that trust is a crucial variable in promoting positive relationships, noting that Blacks may be less trusting because of oppressive historical experiences with enslavement and medical genocide.

Relatedly, a longitudinal study of race-related stress events experienced by Blacks during late childhood and early adolescence were found to give rise to cynical and distrusting relationship schemas among Black couples. Such studies highlight the key role of shared socio-historical experiences in shaping Black gender roles and beliefs. Despite the few studies that have been conducted on psychological and behavioral outcomes related to Black relationships and interactions, limited studies have focused explicitly on identifying the underlying perceptions that may influence such outcomes, an omission in the literature that the current study addresses.

I gave my seven-year-old son a talk about Ferguson. I was brutally honest… I told him that the police put a target on Black men on this country. Better understanding the cultural stereotypes and perceptions that put them at risk could reduce implicit and explicit biases. One way to advance this inquiry is to gather the perspectives of the parents of Black men. Given that many U. Further, no studies, to our knowledge, have investigated the contextual factors that shape the perspectives of Black women. Purposive, convenience, and referral sampling strategies were employed.

Women were notified of the study through word-of-mouth and posted flyers. Eligibility requirements included the following: be at least 18 years of age and identify as an African American or Black woman. We deemed focus groups, versus individual interviews, to be the most appropriate method of inquiry given the purpose of a larger study. Two interviewers conducted a total of eight focus groups. Focus groups were convened with women who were roughly in same age groups e. A middle-aged Black woman conducted all of the focus groups with community members, and a Black female graduate research assistant facilitated the focus groups with college students.

Two ethnic minority female graduate students served as observers, attending each session and drafting comprehensive field notes. Group sessions took place in private rooms at the site from which participants were recruited or at a local university, depending on which location was more convenient for participants. After discussing confidentiality and the purpose of the study, researchers obtained permission to record the session. Participants then completed informed consent documents and demographic data forms.

Next, women were asked to identify themselves each time they spoke using their choice of only their first name, initials, or a pseudonym to ensure accurate identification of participants when audio recording responses. Focus groups ranged in size from three to eight participants and lasted between 30 minutes and 1. Discussions were audio recorded and later transcribed by trained research assistants. Focus group discussions were guided by several questions deed to engage women in discussion about Black women and men.

These questions were written for a larger study, which sought to identify gender role beliefs of Black women. Focus group facilitators urged all women to participate and utilized clarification i. However, all women made at least one contribution to focus group discussions.

At the end of each focus group discussion, the interviewer asked women if they had additional questions or comments. Women were thanked for their participation and provided incentives at the conclusion of their session. A university Institutional Review Board approved methods for the current study, which was part of a larger study wherein the goal was to develop a measure of gender role beliefs for Black women.

After transcription of focus group data, five research team members four Black women and one Asian American woman reviewed all transcripts scrupulously and established a preliminary coding scheme based on patterns identified in the data. Subsequently, three Black men also reviewed the transcripts and provided suggestions for the revision of the preliminary coding scheme. Using guidelines offered by Braun and Clarke , two trained researchers conducted thematic analyses using data gathered from the eight focus groups.

Transcribed data were coded via a qualitative data analysis software program, NVivo 8. Next, researchers identified prevalent codes, operationalized as codes mentioned in at least four of the eight groups and across groups at least 10 times. A total of 19 prevalent codes emerged from the eight verbatim focus group transcripts. Prevalent codes were then grouped by similarity and relevance into three themes.

Data analysis was cyclical and involved continuous development of new codes and constant comparison of themes. Numerous techniques were utilized to strengthen scientific rigor in our qualitative study. Themes, prevalent codes used to inform development of each theme, example quotes, and the frequency of each theme are reported in Table 1.

This strength was described in two ways: physical strength and mental strength. Women also associated men with masculinity and large muscles. An year-old widowed mother shared her thoughts:. When I think of masculine I think of male first and then the strength. This strength was described as mental toughness in which men displayed an ability to be resolute, assertive, and determined. Differentiating Black men from other men in this regard, numerous women attested to Black men possessing such strength.

Furthermore, women described men in leadership roles as displaying this form of intangible strength. Men were considered to be goal-oriented leaders, he of households and families, and providers. Mental toughness was also mentioned as a unique characteristic of Black men in their role as leaders of families. Other women shared views of Black men as leaders and providers, although these views were often expressed as visions of an ideal Black man. Women also related images of ideal Black men to men in their lives such as their fathers and or grandfathers.

Several participants noted that many Black men might not know how to commit due to sociocultural factors such as the absence of fathers or father figures—a circumstance women believed perpetuated a cycle of reduced commitment to women and families. An older woman captured the voices of several women with her comments:.

I think a lot of it is environmental to me…I would think that depending on where or how someone was reared would have a lot to do with their behavior. Citing socialization as a possible culprit, this woman explained that men may have difficulty with connecting to families and partners because they did not learn how to or have examples for doing so.

Other participants highlighted that these types of challenges contributed to a lack of trust in men and subsequently contributed to their perceived obligation to assume roles as independent women. Some women believed connectivity challenges with personal and familial relationships were related to men being reluctant to connect emotionally, which was described as being unemotional or emotionally inexpressive. Participants expressed thoughts about the need for men to be more sensitive to their emotions as well as the emotions of others.

Specifically, women believed these experiences created a unique type of social disadvantage experienced by Black men. This woman echoed and coalesced the responses of many women, highlighting individual, cultural, and structural factors that contribute to the social disadvantage experienced by Black men. In the eyes of participants, Black men desire to accomplish goals for personal success as well as support and provide for their families. Women also described how these factors influence gendered interactions between Black men and women. A year-old single woman explained:.

Because of… the history… being separated and sold from your family and never probably meeting up with them again. Further contextualizing gendered interactions between Black men and women, participants explained that pain and fractured identities resulting from historical experiences with enslavement also played an important role.

Another year-old single woman shared:. So we endured a lot of pain. Women emphasized agonizing physical and psychological sociohistorical experiences that planted seeds of disadvantage for Black people. According to participants, these experiences stripped Blacks of their African identity and customs, forced them to adopt foreign traditions, and left Blacks struggling with the ramifications of familial separation and identity castration for generations to come.

Explaining how these painful socio-historical experiences connect to present day realities, a participant shared:. In addition to underscoring structural barriers that influence gendered interactions between Black men and women, participants highlighted psychological barriers that seemed to stem from cultural memories of adversity, pain, and a sense of culturally shared unresolved grief. Women believed the indelible scars that were left on the psyche of Blacks were responsible for the absence of Black men in families and consequent societal expectations for Black women to be breadwinning matriarchs.

The goal of the current study was to better understand U. Participants spoke passionately about how oppression and marginalization influenced gender roles of, and interactions between, Black men and Black women. Despite prior assumptions that Black women view Black men unfavorably, our findings suggest a more balanced and contextualized assessment.

To participants, this strength was evidenced through working hard and providing for their families. Consistent with literature, physical strength was associated with being masculine, a traditional gender role of men Bem, Mental strength was described as being assertive, powerful, hardworking, firm, and strong-willed.

There was also evidence that men were viewed as goal-oriented leaders, he of households, and providers, consistent with traditional gender role beliefs Bem, Our findings also revealed women in the current study to believe Black men have challenges connecting and committing to their partners and families. As described by participants, Black families have historically endured a lack of educational and employment opportunities, poverty, and disenfranchisement.

All of these social barriers have attributed to a fractured familial structure and, at times, the inability of Black men to financially and emotionally support their families. Findings from our study have implications for researchers and practitioners who seek to understand Black male-female relationships and the socialization of Black boys.

Because U. According to Pinderhughes , p. For example, Black women in the current study stated that ideal Black men display strength by providing for their families. However, if Black men feel that Black women should share the role of provider, strains on the relationship due to gender role conflict may arise. Understanding how Black women perceive Black men as providers is also important to better understanding their relationships with Black women.

Additionally, in the current study Black women viewed men as uncommitted to families, which may reinforce expectations of Black women to be strong and independent Abrams et al.

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