Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Greer-Medley, Tawanda


Multiple research studies have suggested that African American parents transmit a variety of socialization messages, including preparation for bias and egalitarianism (Hughes et al., 2006; White-Johnson et al., 2010). In response to specific race-related events, such as police involved shooting deaths of African Americans since 2012, scholars have begun to expand racial socialization research to explore the influence of racial events on African American parenting. However, there is little research that examines the impact of repeated witnessing of vicarious instances of police brutality, shootings, and killings of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement on parent racial socialization practices. The goals of the current study were to explore racial socialization practices of African American parents within the context of current events about police brutality and shootings of African Americans by police. Qualitative analysis of interviews with sixteen African American parents provided insight into relationships between parents’ experiences with and beliefs about police, socialization practices, and demonstrations of vicarious trauma symptoms. Grounded theory methodology was used to analyze the data using: a) open-coding; b) axial coding; and c) selective coding (Corbin & Strauss, 2015). Results of the analysis revealed four categories at the axial level comprised of 17 subcategories at the open-coding level. Conclusions drawn from the grounded theory model that was derived in this study suggest that all parents who were studied socialized their children about race and police involved killings of African Americans based on their own experiences with and beliefs about police. Parents were collapsed into categories reflecting their experiences: a) parents who have had negative experiences with police but keep their children engaged in positive behaviors to eliminate police encounters; b) parents who have had positive experiences with police and do not want their young children to have negative biases toward members of law enforcement; c) parents who are fearful and mistrustful of police, despite having mixed personal experiences with them, and want their children to be prepared for possible encounters with police; d) parents who have had mixed personal experiences with police but want their children to have a balanced perspective of officers; and e) parents who have had positive personal experiences with police, keep their children engaged in positive behaviors to eliminate police encounters, and want their children to be prepared to successfully navigate possible encounters with police. These conclusions have implications for African American parents, mental health practitioners, members of law enforcement, and federal and state legislators.




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