Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version

Spring 2012


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Sociology, Under the Supervision of Professor Julia McQuillan. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Amy M. Clark


The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the meanings that childfree African American and Hispanic women place on motherhood and to better understand what impact these meanings may or may not have on the changing demographic of minority women who do not have children. This study used qualitative interviews and the method of phenomenology to elicit descriptions from a sample of African American and Hispanic women who do not have children. Specifically, the goal of this study was to explore how African American and Hispanic childfree women conceptualize their understanding of motherhood and to understand how these conceptualizations may impact their view of motherhood or becoming a mother. Data were collected from 17 in-depth interviews (n = 8 African American childfree women; n = 9 Hispanic childfree women) and then analyzed using phenomenological procedures. From this study six themes emerged: (1) Strong mother influence – Minority childfree women had a mother figure in their lives that shaped the requirements they felt women should fulfill in the motherhood role. (2) Familial Caregiving – Minority women without children experienced caring for children primarily within their own families or through kinship ties and neighbors that were connected to their family of origin. (3) Purposefully Not Ready – The meanings attributed to the role of motherhood by minority women in this study directly affected their decisions to become mothers themselves. (4) Motherhood is Hard Work –Minority childfree women participating in this study framed their desire to have children in part to their perception that the tasks and duties ascribed to motherhood are labor intensive. (5) Rules, Tradition, and “The Way it Should Be”- A collective notion of the importance of creating “rules” for children and abiding by “tradition” is the fifth theme in this study. Women that were interviewed also discussed the importance of raising children in a nuclear family consisting of a two parent household. Statements within this theme related to the insights that the women had regarding how children should be parented. (6) Understood Judgment - The data revealed that African American and Hispanic women experience criticism and judgment within their families and communities for not becoming a mother. Minority women within this study also indicated that criticism was expected and did not affect their desire to have children.

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