Date of Award

8-2-2006

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Ralph E. LaRossa - Chair

Second Advisor

Elisabeth O. Burgess

Third Advisor

Charles A. Gallagher

Fourth Advisor

Romney S. Norwood

Abstract

Previous research on grandparents as kinship care providers demonstrated that grandparents are confronted with both challenges and rewards. Using qualitative research methods, I examined the lives of 35 black aunts who served as kinship care providers for nieces and nephews. I found that grandparents and aunts experienced increased time demands, financial burdens, and family stress. However, this study demonstrated that aunts’ experiences differ from grandparents’, due to the younger age of aunts and the fact that aunts are of the same generation as the biological parents. Moreover, I found that aunting, or the care and nurture of children by aunts and great-aunts, is gendered and invisible work that, at the most basic level, salvages children’s lives. Salvaging children’s lives involved three non-linear stages: making the decision to become a kinship care provider, transitioning from aunting to parenting, and parenting nieces and nephews. I utilized a synthesis of symbolic interactionism and black feminist thought as a theoretical framework that examines how the meanings that black women attach to family influence their definitions of self and affect their decisions to act on behalf of family members. These findings extend the research on black women’s lives and on kinship care within black families. I used a narrative style that allows the respondents’ voices to be heard, as these are their stories. I offer suggestions for future research, as well as outline a number of policy and theoretical implications. This research is important because black children are disproportionately represented within the child welfare system. If interventions and policies are to influence other black women or black men to accept responsibility for many of the most at-risk children in their families and neighborhoods, research must explore and report the challenges, sacrifices, costs, and rewards of becoming kinship care providers within black families.

Included in

Sociology Commons

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