The publisher's final edited version of this article is available at Pers Relatsh See other articles in PMC that cite the published article. Qualitative interviews were conducted in as part of the Pathways to Marriage study.
The authors analyzed the data in a collaborative fashion and utilized content analyses to explore the relationships in the data which were derived from qualitative interviews with the men. Findings on the reasons for the disproportionality of singlehood among Black women reflected these four themes: Recommendations for future research are discussed. Furthermore, 7 out of 10 Black women are unmarried and 3 out of 10 may never marry Banks, Thus, the disproportionate number of Black women who are single has been well-documented.
This demographic pattern is so noticeable, that it has even received considerable attention from popular media e. Among those desiring to marry, scholars have identified barriers related to economic instabilities, challenges that undermine long-term relationship success e.
Other work suggests that some women are happy to remain unmarried, given their uncertainties about the permanency of marriage or their desire to concentrate on their professional lives e. Boyd-Franklin and Franklin have counseled Black women in clinical settings on these issues. They have noted that Black women are frequently provided with conflicting messages about intimate relationships by elders in their families and communities.
Boyd-Franklin and Franklin wrote: One is a message of independence e. Though prior work has sampled Black women to learn more about reasons for remaining single, very few studies consider the perspectives of married Black men.
We focused on the opinions of these men for three reasons. To respond to our inquiry, the men in the present study offered opinions about relationships by reflecting on their own dating and marital histories, as well as their observations of intimate ties in their families and communities.
We obtained perspectives from men who value marriage, as evidenced by their commitment to enrolling in and completing a marriage enrichment program. From this perspective, obtaining the opinions of married men is particularly important since men traditionally initiate marriage proposals. Children raised in marriage-based households also exhibit more favorable developmental outcomes over time Blackman et al. Given that stable, satisfying marriages have been associated with positive outcomes e.
Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore reasons that Black women are disproportionately single; we explore those reasons using the perspectives of 52 married Black men. Married Black men offer a unique perspective on this important demographic trend in our country. Very few studies of relationships include the opinions and voices of men, particularly Black men.
In this respect, this investigation makes an important contribution to the literature. Next, we outline relevant literature concerning the influence of macro-level e. Background The Mundane Environmental Stress Model served as a conceptual guide to help elucidate the processes by which structural factors may impact intimate relationships.
Another comparable framework—the Vulnerability-Stress-Adaptation Model—is a useful tool for understanding factors that could explain non-marriage among Black women. The model emphasizes three components—stressful events e. Next, we discuss empirical work on the impact of education, employment, sex ratio, and incarceration on relationships. Particularly among men, as incomes rise and jobs become more secure, the probability of marriage increases Gibson-Davis et al.
Though marriage is delayed when Black men pursue postsecondary education, the probability of marriage increases Marks et al.
Among Black men, scholars have noted a decline in well-paying jobs, and consequentially, a rise in unemployment and underemployment Browning, ; Marks et al. Ethnographic work has highlighted how compromised educational and economic opportunities, as well as perceived loss of freedom, undermined the likelihood that men will marry Anderson, Dickson noted that women are encouraged to pursue education, secure employment, and be self-reliant in communities where there is a shortage of marriageable men, as in the Black community.
Black women have traditionally worked in the labor force to help sustain their families, but over time, they have become even more independent and less likely to marry solely for financial support Hill, ; Jones, ; Taylor et al. Available Black females outnumber Black males as a result of mortality, morbidity, and imprisonment among Black males and increased longevity for Black females Lane et al. The availability of mates in the marriage market affects the likelihood of marital formation and longevity Hopkins-Williams, Despite considerable attention to macro-level influences that impact Black unions, only a fraction of the variations in relationship patterns can be attributed to structural factors such as employment, education, sex ratio, and incarceration Cherlin, ; Wilson, We review these two relationship dynamics next.
Gender Relations Research suggests that slavery in the U. Enslaved Black men were customarily removed from their families and communities, and thus, their function in family life was often more biological than social or financial Boyd-Franklin, ; Franklin, ; Staples, Slavery conditions may have significantly undermined the formation of permanent unions and the leadership roles of Black men in their families Pinderhughes, Given the marginal roles relegated to Black men within their families and the history of strained gender relations that may be attributable to harsh slavery conditions, communication challenges and confusion about gender roles between Black men and women developed Franklin, ; Hatchett, ; Pinderhughes, This confusion in the gender roles between Black men and women can be traced to fluidity in gender roles between the two genders; gender roles were flexible out of economic necessity.
Relational challenges, negative orientations and attitudes, and difficult interactional styles between Black men and Black women were passed on to younger generations through socialization Boyd-Franklin, ; Browning, ; Johnson, Franklin offers an illustration of how conflicting sex roles may operate: In addition, the spirit of independence and a sense of personal rights among Black women, which developed out of the necessity for coping with persistent inequality, may strain couple relationships between Black men and Black women Hill, ; Johnson, In addition to gender relations, another micro-level factor to consider relates to interpersonal trust, which we address next.
Having considered macro-level and micro-level factors that impact Black relationships, we now turn our attention to the rationale for this study.
Study Purpose Few investigations of relationships have adopted a within-group analysis approach and focused exclusively on Black men. There are gaps in the literature on Black men, particularly with regard to type of samples and kind of methodologies employed. Much of the research in this area has employed quantitative methodology with larger samples, and has focused on the influential role of education, employment, intermarriage, and nonmarital childbearing on marital behavior.
Several qualitative studies have been conducted but have primarily used samples of women or couples e. No study of which we are aware has sought the perspective of married Black men to better understand why a disproportionate number of Black women are single.
Although Black women may offer the best insight on these experiences, we interviewed Black men to capture their unique perspectives on the issues.
Therefore, we believe that the results of this study add to the literature. We felt that a qualitative inquiry could provide a richer understanding of these issues elucidated by Black men than had been obtained using survey measurements in quantitative studies. The purpose of ProSAAM was to examine the role of prayer and skill-based intervention in strengthening African American marital relationships. The sample was recruited from metropolitan Atlanta and northeast Georgia through referrals and advertisements at churches, community centers, radio shows, print media, and local businesses frequented by Black couples and families for more details, visit http: Of the couples who participated in ProSAAM, husbands had completed their three-year follow-up assessment by December 1, , marking their completion of the larger ProSAAM study and were thus eligible for participation in the present study called Pathways to Marriage.
Fifty-two men consented to participate. The men were enrolled on a first-come, first-served basis. Sample A brief survey was administered to the participants to collect demographic information.
The mean age for the study participants was 43 range 27— All men reported their race as Black; one man identified himself as a Cuban American while all the others self-identified as African American. Black was used to describe the race of the sample in order to include ethnicities such as Cuban American and African American.
All of the men were married. Most men fathered two biological children range 0 —7. Most men reported living in a home with two children range 0 — 3. This sample of Black men recalled being romantically involved including dating and marriage with their wives for 16 years on average range 3 — 41 years; one participant gave no response. Seventy-three percent of the men had not been married previously. The average length of their current marriage was 14 years range 2 — Procedures The 52 men were interviewed in their homes or another setting of their choice e.
The interviews were semi-structured, and were the primary method of data collection. Each interviewee was assured anonymity and strict confidentiality of the data collected. Two married Black male interviewers conducted the interviews between January and April The men were asked about the meaning of marriage, marital socialization, their motivations for marrying and staying married, factors that helped to encourage and sustain marriage, barriers to or challenges in staying married, commitment attitudes, and their participation in ProSAAM Hurt, For these analyses, we examined the advice men provided regarding the disproportionate number of Black women who are single.
The two interviewers digitally recorded each interview, and the recordings were electronically submitted to a transcriber. Undergraduate research interns listened to the digital recordings and read the transcripts simultaneously to verify complete transcription since the transcriber was not a member of the research team Carlson, The interview transcripts were used for the data analyses.
The two interviewers underwent extensive training with the first author, learning interviewing techniques and the ethical collection and handling of interview data. The interviewers also listened to eligibility requirements for the men's participation.
The men must have been 1 married, 2 self-identified their ethnicity as African American or been married to an African American spouse, 3 took part in ProSAAM, and 4 completed their 3-year follow-up interview.
The first author also reviewed study goals, the interview protocol, and the background for each question with the interviewers. When the interviewers sensed that the men could say more about their experiences and offer a more detailed account of their perspectives or experiences during the interviews, they frequently encouraged the interviewee to talk more specifically about the issue. In such instances, the interviewer often relied on non-verbal cues and other observations of the manner in which the respondent answered the question.
The interviewers were trained to ask questions in an open-ended way so that the participants would share their opinions and experiences more fully. The interviewers followed a consistent line of questioning and only probed where necessary. This style of interviewing permitted a more holistic understanding of what the participants thought and felt about the issue under study.
Nonetheless, in light of the more individualized nature of qualitative inquiry and the semi-structured method of interviewing, the interviewers adapted their line of questioning with the men, re-articulating questions or phrasing them differently to ensure the participants understood what was being asked. Communication between the first author and the interviewers was maintained throughout the 4-month data collection process. The interviewers met semi-monthly in person with the research team and communicated weekly with the first author about their progress in the field.
Through in-person meetings, emails, phone conversations, and documented reflections on the digital recorders, the interviewers reported important themes and impressions from their field observations. The research team regularly checked the interview recordings to make certain that the interviewers were following the interview protocol in their lines of inquiry and were practicing effective interviewing techniques.
During the analysis phase, the authors shared the following demographic characteristics: This group included four Black women and one White woman. The team of authors analyzed the interview data in a collaborative way.