Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Spirituality and well-being in the daily lives of African American women
by Saunders-Newton, Clarissa, Ph.D., University of Southern California, 2012, 337; 3487950
Abstract (Summary)

The practice of spirituality is believed to be an essential and powerful force in the lives of African-Americans. The breath of its influence in daily life has been observed in nearly every aspect of the African American experience. It is perhaps for this reason that interest in understanding African American spirituality has not waned over the years, but in fact has persisted and grown stronger. Despite the clear indication that spiritual practices play a significant role in the African American female experience, the exploration of the lives of African American women has been neglected (Jones & Shorter-Gooden, 2003) and this neglect has extended to research on spirituality (Cannon, 1993; Mattis & Jagers, 2001). The purpose of this dissertation was to reveal the perception of spiritual experiences and practices in daily life and its relationship to the well being of African American women. This dissertation addressed a single organizing question: What is the nature of the relationship between spirituality and well being in a sample of African American women as perceived in daily life?

The most recent research on African American female spirituality (Frederick, 2003; Hull, 2001; Mattis, 2000, 2002; & Ryan, 2005) suggested that for some African American women, spirituality could be located in daily experience as religious, social, psychological, and physical phenomenon. Furthermore, this research suggested that the link between spirituality and well being was influenced by the complex interactions of the religious, social, psychological and physical elements of the daily experience (Mattis, 2002; Ryan, 2005). Thus, this dissertation's empiricism was based on a qualitative research approach. Four African American women agreed to participate and each was interviewed twice. Two of the four were then selected to continue with additional interviews and observations. Narrative configuration (Polkinghorne, 1995) was used to organize the data as storied accounts of the participant's perception of spirituality. Working from the storied accounts, interview data, observational data and field notes, thematic narrative analysis was used to apprehend spirituality/well being themes.

Several key findings emerged. First, the narrative data revealed as a dominant plot line a relationship between spirituality and well being. Second, spirituality was fundamentally defined by a relationship with the divine that was experienced as "real". A "real" relationship with the divine afforded emotional well being through the elevation of positive emotion (peace, comfort, assurance, confidence, and the like) and the alleviation of negative emotions (fear, pain, and worry). Additionally, a relationship with the divine was characterized by a set of expectations that fostered experiences of hope and altruism. Third, the ability to modify personal theology related either positively or negatively to well being. Fourth, the participants described integrated ways of knowing that guided the perception of choices and possible well being outcomes. Fifth, the participants evaluated well being outcomes through a process that reckoned with potential loss and gains. Sixth, spiritual practices were fundamentally concerned with alignment of the self to expectations of the divine relationship. Seventh, the interaction of the divine/human relationship with other domains suggested an underlying reasoning that linked spirituality to well being. Specifically, the analysis suggested the possibility that the participants used spiritual narrative reasoning to organize aspects of spiritual experience as lived in daily life. Finally, the proposed view of the relationship between the perception of spirituality and well being as mediated by spiritual narrative reasoning offers occupational scientists who are interested in the well being of African American women, insights into the process through which spirituality relates to well being.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Jackson, Jeanne M.
Commitee: Lawlor, Mary, Moore, Alexander
School: University of Southern California
Department: Occupational Science
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 73/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Womens studies, Occupational Therapy, Spirituality
Keywords: African-American women, Occupational science, Spirituality, Well-being, Women
Publication Number: 3487950
ISBN: 978-1-267-07673-1
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