Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The garden of eves: Non-kin social support among low-income African American single mothers in a public housing community
by Reid, Amanda H., Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2009, 131; 3363136
Abstract (Summary)

This study explores the nature and function of social support networks in a sample of African American single mothers who reside in a public housing community in a small city. The current study extends previous research by examining social support as provided by mothers' non-kin neighbors as well as that provided by family members. In addition, most studies of social relations in low-income African American communities have been conducted in large cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and Baltimore. Researchers in these settings have found that neighbors tend to restrict their interactions with one another, but little is known about the extent to which the same dynamic occurs in smaller cities and towns.

In the current study, fifteen African American single mothers participated in a series of two qualitative interviews. The first interview elicited these mothers' reflections on their public housing community, their interactions with neighbors, and the stressors they experience in their lives. The second interview was administered several weeks after the first interview. It probed more specifically for information about providers of social support (i.e., family, neighbors, friends, intimate partners and community resources), frequency of contact with these providers, and the aspects of social support provided by each individual supporter (e.g., emotional support, tangible support, and informational support).

In many ways, findings from this study are similar those reported in studies conducted in low-income areas of large cities. Single mothers frequently identified tangible support as essential to their survival, and pointed to family members as their primary providers of support. However, they also discussed some of the inherent complexities of relying on families for support. In addition, even in the context of a small city there was evidence for restriction of neighbor relations, as reported in studies conducted in large metropolitan cities. However, while there was no global support network of non-kin mothers within Prairie Gardens, most participants exchanged vital resources with at least one other single mother in the public housing community. This small non-kin network of support seemed strategically chosen based on the promise of reciprocity.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Allen, Nicole E.
School: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-B 70/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Black studies, Social psychology, Womens studies, Public policy
Keywords: African-American, Low-income, Public housing, Single mothers, Social support, Women
Publication Number: 3363136
ISBN: 9781109220278
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