Exploring the Psychosocial and Psycho-spiritual Dynamics of Singleness Among African American Christian Women in Midlife Open Access

Hicks, Christina (2016)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/pn89d7024?locale=en
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Abstract

"Exploring the Psychosocial and Psycho-spiritual Dynamics of Singleness among African American Christian Women in Midlife"

Abstract

This study adopts a qualitative research methodology in exploring the experiences of single African American Christian women (SAACW) in midlife. Extensive in-depth interviews were conducted with three heterosexual SAACW from diverse social, familial, educational, professional and theological backgrounds, who have never been married, have no children and are between the ages of forty and fifty five. The study utilizes the pastoral theological methodology of liberating intercultural praxis in examining the experiences of the participants through multi-layered lenses of race, gender, class, culture, faith and ethics. What is revealed is that this group of SAACW feels demonized, stereotyped and labeled within their social, familial and Christian contexts where marriage is viewed as the normal or most desirable path for the single adult. The findings offer insights into the experiences of SAACW and illuminate how they are not accepted in their communities as complete and whole persons in their singlehood. Specific attention is given to the Black churches' role and response to SAACW. This research challenges the common beliefs and assumptions about the single population in regards to their inclusion and acceptance within the life and activity of the Black church. The study concludes with recommendations to Black church leadership, and sets forth guidelines for providing pastoral care, ministry and therapeutic insights to SAACW in individual, communal and group contexts.

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION 1

The Birthing Process 1
The Principal Question and Problem 2
The Exploration Process 3
The Black Church 5
Research Methodology 6
Outline of Chapters 8
CHAPTER 1. "WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU AND WHY AREN'T YOU MARRIED?" 10
SAACW in Midlife: The Black Church and Society 10
Cultural Images of SAACW 14
"You Must Be A Lesbian" 14
"The Sinister Reason" (Eve) 17
"What's Wrong with You and Why Aren't You Married?" 18
"How Old Are You?" 19
"I Choose--Single and Satisfied" 22
Summary 23
CHAPTER 2. THEMATIC NARRATIVE ANALYSIS AND RESULTS OF SAACW IN MIDLIFE 24
Purpose 24
Data Gathering and Thematic Narrative Analysis 24
Sociocultural Narrative Results 25
Narratives of Single Self-Identity 25
Narratives of Society and African American Women 28
Narratives of the Black Church and Singleness 31
Narratives of the African American Male Shortage 34
Narratives of Dating African American Men 38
Implications of the Analysis 41
CHAPTER 3. "I THINK OFTEN ABOUT WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN AS I GROW OLDER" 42
Midlife Journey 42
Addressing the "Ideal" Family Fantasy 43
Narratives of Midlife and Change 44
Narratives of Midlife, Loneliness, Aloneness and Regret 46
Defining the Meaning of Work, Current and Future 49
Narratives of Midlife and Work 50
Defining an Authentic Life as a Single Adult 52
Narratives of Midlife and Singleness 52
Defining an Authentic Life as an Aging Adult 53
Narratives of Midlife and Growing Older 54
Summary 58
CHAPTER 4. "THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS THE IDEAL MARRIAGE OR FAMILY" 60
Who or What is the "Ideal" Family for SAACW in Midlife? 60
The "Ideal" Family 61
Narratives of the Ideal Family 63
The "Ideal" Marriage and Victorian Beliefs 65
Narratives of the Ideal Marriage 68
The "Ideal" Marriage and the Black Church 70
Narratives of Marriage and the Black Church 72
Extended and Fictive Family Kinship in an African American Context 74
Final Points 78
CHAPTER 5. "I DECIDED I CAN DO WHAT I WANT WITH MY BODY" 80
SAACW in Midlife: Sex, Sexuality and Spirituality 80
Sexuality and Spirituality 81
Narratives of Sexuality and Spirituality 81
The Sexual Myth of Virginity and Fornication 88
Narratives of Virginity and Fornication 94
Masturbation 96
Narratives of Masturbation 99
Concluding Thoughts 101
CHAPTER 6. A WOMANIST BIBLICAL IMAGE OF SINGLENESS: "MARY AND MARTHA" 102
Mary and Martha: A Feminist Interpretation, Challenging Gender Roles 103
Mary and Martha: A Womanist Interpretation, Bridging Two Worlds 105
A Womanist Image of Jesus Who "Walks Alongside" 107
Narratives of Jesus and God in Singleness 113
In Closing 114
CHAPTER 7. "YOU CAN'T JUST TREAT ME LIKE A STEPCHILD" 116
Relational Cultural Theory and Healthiness of the Self 116
Religion and Culture: Connection and Disconnection 117
Narratives of the Church Environment 119
Relational Images and Stereotypes of SAACW in Midlife 121
Relational Cultural Therapy and Healthiness of the Self in Singleness 124
Conclusion 131
CHAPTER 8. "GOD MADE US SPECIAL IN THE BONDS OF SISTERHOOD" 133
Pastoral Ministry and the "Mary and Martha Ethics of Pastoral Care" in the Black Church 133
Pastoral Ministry for SAACW in Midlife 133
"Mary and Martha Ethics of Pastoral Care" for SAACW in Midlife 138
"Mary and Martha Ethics of Pastoral Care" Group 139
Group Questionnaire 140
Pastoral Theological Reflection 141

CONCLUSION 141

BIBLIOGRAPHY 143

APPENDIX 150
Research Participants Consent Form 150
Group Participants Consent Form 152
Questionnaire #1 154
Questionnaire #2 155
Questionnaire #3 156
Group Questionnaire 157

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