Jenkins, Nina Lyon
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This study is about how a group of professional, middle-aged Black1 women, between the ages of 50 and 55, define motherhood. It explores their self-definitions and conceptions of themselves as mothers. The purpose of this study is to explore the meanings of motherhood by the women themselves and the impact of motherhood on their personal identities. Using qualitative methodologies and narrative analysis, this study pays particular attention to (a) the meaning of motherhood, (b) the transition to motherhood, and (c) the decision to parent. The impact on or association of mothering with Black women's self-esteem and self-concept is also explored. This research is informed by symbolic interaction theory and feminist theory -- specifically Black feminist thought -- and illustrates what Black feminist scholars often refer to as "the dialectics of Black womanhood." The study of Black motherhood is particularly important because it focuses on an aspect of Black family life that is often devalued, misunderstood and negatively portrayed. “Rather than treating motherhood as a “dependent variable” or using it primarily to support or challenge preexisting sociological or political theories about women’s lives” (McMahon, 1995), the experiences of Black mothers is placed at the center of analysis. 1 The terms African American and Black are used interchangeably throughout this paper. As such, the term Black is used as a proper noun in recognition of a specific cultural group. To that end, I have chosen to capitalize the “B” in the word black. Currently, both terms are used to refer to people living in America of African descent.
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