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Multiculturalism and Social Work | San Francisco State University

White mothers of biracial, black-white adolescents; negotiating the borders of racial identity, culture and ethnicity

Author: O'Donoghue, M.
Author Background: New York Univ., PhD, May 2000
Date 5/2000
Type Dissertation
Journal Title:
Volume/Pages 36(4), 2000, No. 1719
Subject Matter Research, Identity-; Mothers-; Adolescents-; Ethnicity-; Whites-; Blacks
Abstract This qualitative study explores how racial identity, culture, and ethnicity inform the lives and parenting practices of white mothers of biracial, black-white adolescents. Eleven white mothers married to African American men and raising adolescent children were interviewed about their experiences. The majority of these women socialize their children with a focus on African American culture but do not foster a sense of ethnicity related to the mother's ethnic background. Through their parenting, the mothers have come to a greater sense of their own racial identity, recognizing white privilege and their own white identity. Their children identify as biracial but with a public black identity; their identity is neither linear nor progressive but varies between black and biracial depending on social situations. Adolescence is not a stressful time. The mothers attempt to foster coping skills by carefully choosing where to live, promoting discussion on racial issues, reinforcing African American culture, warning their children about societal hostility, and joining peer support groups.