Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Dr. JoAnna White - Chair


ABSTRACT THE LIVED EXPERIENCE OF AFRICAN AMERICAN PARENTS OF MIDDLE SCHOOL BOYS AT A PREDOMINANTLY WHITE ELITE PRIVATE SCHOOL by Debra Elaine Smith Parental involvement has been associated positively with school success across ethnic groups (Hong & Ho, 2005). Yet, some African American parents were found to be more alienated from school than were White parents (Abrams & Gibbs, 2002). One of the most consistent findings in educational research is the underachievement of African American males (Lee, 2003), and a recent report chronicled the pervasive and systematic failure of public schools to educate African American males (Schott, 2008). In the southeastern region, only 40% of African American males graduate from high school (Schott); however, in the post-Civil Rights era, advances in racial equity in education and other arenas of society have created a growing African American middle class (McKinnon, 2003). The southeast region has the largest percent of affluent African Americans (Miller, 2002), and a growing number of these upper middle class African American parents are sending their children to private schools because they are dissatisfied with the lack of rigor in the public school experience (Freedman,2004). This is a new phenomenon that warrants study. Currently, there are no empirical studies on middle class African American parents who send their children to private schools. The purpose of this study was to explore the ways 12 African American couples of middle school boys experience a predominantly White elite private school. To undertake this qualitative investigation, a phenomenological approach incorporating grounded theory was utilized. This research approach is well suited for exploratory investigation of phenomena that are not yet clearly defined within the literature (Creswell, 1998). Data were collected from the couple interviews, focus group, demographic information, and reflexive journal. Five overarching themes emerged from the analysis of the data: better opportunity/brand, parental connection, selective engagement, parental struggle, and parental marginalization. These results are informative and significant to research and practice. Ultimately, it is hoped that this study may contribute to the efforts of providing a quality education to African American male students and satisfaction to their parents in the areas of diversity and inclusion at predominantly White elite private schools.