Date of Conferral





Human Services


Spenjia Moten


With a significant number of African American single-parent families responsible for raising a generation of male children, the focus of this qualitative case study was on exploring the African American single mother-son dyad to identify metacommunicative signals delivered from mothers to sons. This study was grounded in a theoretical framework combining attachment theory and social learning theory. The research questions focused on identifying metacommunication messages passed from mothers to sons and how metacommunication patterns influence the youth's social identity. Four single mothers with adolescent sons and 4 unrelated adult sons of single mothers participated in semistructured interviews. Data were collected and analyzed using content analysis and coding supported with NVivo software. Key findings revealed that the metacommunication was a dominant form of communication in the African-American family construct, and affected the parenting styles. From the mother's retrospective reports, African-American mother's adapted an authoritarian or helicopter parenting styles to control and protect their sons from racism, becoming victims of crime and violence, being arrested, or incarcerated. The key finding from the sons' retrospective reports was that negative metacommunication from single mothers to sons was associated with insecure attachment, avoidance, and risky behaviors. The implications for social change are that positive metacommunication can strengthen the African American single mother-son dyad. This information may lead to intervention strategies for targeting negative metacommunication patterns from African American single mothers to sons and teaching new communication rules that foster a secure relationship.