Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Clancy Dollinger, Stephanie


Peters (1985), defines racial socialization as "tasks Black parents share with all parents - providing for and raising children ... but include the responsibility of raising physically and emotionally healthy children who are Black in a society in which Black has negative connotations" (p. 161). Racial socialization is a complex multidimensional construct and scholars have made attempts to capture the essence of its process. However, due to its complexity, no single or commonly accepted definition currently exists in the literature (Lesane-Brown, 2006). To date, most of the racial socialization literature has addressed the types of messages that African American parents transmit to their children, for example, preparation for bias and promotion/socialization of mistrust (Hughes & Chen, 1999). However, what is specifically absent in the current racial socialization literature are the types of messages transmitted to African American women related to skin tone. Sociologists and psychologists have demonstrated that the racial socialization of skin tone impacts an African American woman's sense of self worth and efficacy (Boyd-Franklin, 1989; 2003; Jones & Shorter-Gooden, 2004). Utilizing a qualitative methodological design, with a phenomenological orientation, the purpose of this study was to better understand the lived experiences of the racial socialization of skin tone in a cohort of older African American women. Twenty older African American women (10 light skinned and 10 dark skinned) from three mid-sized, Midwestern cities were interviewed utilizing an adapted classical phenomenology interview approach (Siedman, 2006). This researcher, two-hour semi-structured interviews, and 30-60 minute formal member checks were the primary research tools implemented to obtain rich data for this project. Once the interview data was collected, the interviews were professionally transcribed verbatim to capture the full essence of the participants' lived experiences of the phenomenon under investigation. The data were then critically and rigorously analyzed, by hand, utilizing a phenomenological data analytic method as outlined by Hycner (1985; 1999). Five salient thematic domains, along with twenty-three subthemes, emerged from the phenomenology data analysis procedure. An additional verification method (i.e., inter-rater reliability Kappa coefficient) was employed to assist in cross-validation of the study's findings (Landis & Koch, 1977). Kappa coefficients demonstrated that of the twenty-three subthemes, which emerged from the analysis, 7 had slight inter-rater agreement 5 had fair inter-rater agreement, 7 had moderate inter-rater agreement, 2 had substantial inter-rater agreement, and 2 had almost perfect inter-rater agreement. Limitations of the current study, recommendations for future research, and recommendations for clinical practice are also discussed.




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