Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counseling Psychology

Committee Chair

Sara Bridges

Committee Member

Rosie P Davis

Committee Member

Susan N Nordstrom

Committee Member

Amber Hewitt


It is reported that 7.5 million African Americans are diagnosed with mental illness, and up to 7.5 million more may be affected without formal diagnosis (Davis, 2005). Acknowledging a 2:1 gender ratio of depression, women may be over-represented in this population (Immerman & Mackey, 2003). African American women’s lower rates of utilization of mental health services, which has been suggested to be impacted by stigma surrounding mental health, serves as an additional barrier for the attainment of optimal mental health. Thompson-Sanders et al. (2004) suggested that Black women who believe that living with psychological pain is part of her role as a “Strong Black Woman” may not see that pain as a health threat and may cope by enduring rather than receiving treatment. Limited research exists regarding attitudes and beliefs of African American mothers with mental health concerns. An extensive amount of research available regarding maternal mental illness focuses its attention on the impact a mother’s mental health has on her children. Highlighting the limited research available regarding African American mothers with mental health concerns, and extensive research focused on the impact of maternal mental health on children, which is generalized from studies of White and middle-class women (Oyserman et al., 2002), research focus on the experiences of African American mothers was imperative. Coupling cultural values regarding strength with the Silencing Paradigm, which is defined as feeling the need to self-silence to keep aspects of a woman’s experiences hidden from those around her, serve as additional barriers for women to report distress. Considering that the Strong Black Woman stereotype is represented and experienced differently amongst African American women, the focus of this research was to examine individualized understandings of “Strong Black Woman” amongst African American mothers with mental health concerns. Utilizing an integrated Womanism theory and Womanist and Voice-centered methodologies, 8 African American mothers participated in Womanist witnessing. Engagement in Womanist witnessing highlighted unique and individualized experiences of 8 African American mothers, whose experiences of motherhood, mental health, and strength varied significantly.


Data is provided by the student

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest.


Open Access