Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Higher and Adult Education


Adult Education

Committee Chair

Jeffrey Wilson

Committee Member

Wendy Griswold

Committee Member

Colton Cockrum

Committee Member

Donna Menke


The purpose of this study was to understand how resources in the community impact rural single mothers' access, participation, and success in higher education. In particular, this study focused on how rural single mothers' community ties impact their social capital resources and perception of agency and achievement in pursuing higher education. The theoretical framework for this study inclduded a critical feminist social capital theory and utilized a community cultural wealth model, focusing on social capital, to highlight how rural single mothers navigate and develop social capital in rural communities to open up opportunities and provide them with social mobility. Research questions that guided this study included:How do the communities influence the decision of the rural single mothers to access an associate's degree program in community college?In what ways do communities influence the opportunities of the rural single mothers to successfully participate in an associate's degree program in community college in terms of social capital resources?In what ways do communities influence the opportunities of the rural single mothers to successfully complete a community college associate's degree program in terms of social capital resources? In this qualitative cross-case analysis there were three rural counties in Tennessee that each represented a bounded case. The counties in this study included Haywood, Franklin, and Lake Counties. Interviews with rural single mothers were transcribed and analyzed for emergent themes from each county. Further, the emergent themes from each county were analyzed to determine themes that emerged across all of the cases. Results indicated four emergent themes: role strain, social capital needs, disenfranchisement and identity formation. The impact of the emergent themes differed between the counties and was dependent on how rural the county was and what social capital was available. Participants described creating alternate social capital through informal networks; as well as, expanding the definition of mothering to include activism to address gaps in social capital needs, especially social capital needs that impact their children.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.