THE PSYCHOLOGY OF BLACK FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS
The dynamics of the black family has not changed significantly since slavery. The role of the black parent has a significant impact on the family psychologically, emotionally, economically, educationally and physically. Traditionally, the family has been described as having a mother, father, and children. The black family has not strayed far from the traditional concept but has taken on non-traditional forms. Black family relationships differ from other races. The history of slavery, segregation and racism has an impact on the black family and community. The relationships between black men and black women have traditionally been strained because of the issues of racism, economic depression, and non-traditional lifestyles. To examine the psychology of black family relationships, one must understand the history of the black family and the evolution from slavery to present day. Slavery made the conventional family difficult to sustain because spouses were often sold away from one another and children were separated from their parents. Some psychologist concluded that after slavery, the old patterns persisted, especially because of how difficult conditions continued to be for black people. Many saw this as an understandable beginning to the fatherless norm in inner-city black communities after the 1960s. It was common for black people to be raised by single mothers during slavery and afterward. This had a psychological impact on the black family because not having a father in the family was stressful. Over the last 150 years, there have always been proportionately more single-parent black homes than white ones. “Roots” by Alex Haley depicted the way black families were treated and viewed during slavery. Black families fought to stay together and voiced their desires to keep their family unit together. “Despite the horrors of slavery, overall, during the pre-emancipation era, about two-thirds of enslaved families had two parents—far more than today” (New Republic, 2011). The role of the parent before and after slavery has always been an important factor on the psychological impact of black family relationships. Parents have the power to shape and mold the self-image of their children. In the ‘60’s, black men with little education found it hard to get decent work and many times abandoned their children which did not give a positive image of themselves in the eyes of their children. Black people living under racism 100 years ago felt very strongly about forming two-parent families and instilling a more positive image in their children. From the 1960s until 1996, expanded welfare policies made it possible to stay on welfare as a mother indefinitely without job training (New Republic, 2011). This is why a man could easily leave kids he fathered to be raised alone; starting in the 1970’s, an unprecedented number did. Psychologically, men felt inferior to being the head of the family and unable to provide for their families. This left the burden of raising a family to the women and many times extended to the grandparents, aunts and uncles to provide the stability needed for the family. Families with two parents were able to provide a more stable home environment for their children. This environment provided more stability emotionally, psychologically, and economically. The black church was also more visible in the community, as black Americans are viewed as a deeply Christian people. The church helped foster more stable two parent families as a norm. The psychological ramifications of strained relationships between men and women as parents can leave families broken. Black single parents can sometimes find themselves more stigmatized, unsupported and isolated than white single parents. Racism and media stereotyping about black families is often at the root of this. These issues can also be compounded by a lack of...
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Delgado, R. (1995). Critical race theory: The cutting edge. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Gutman, Herbert G. (1976). The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom 1750–1925. New York: Vintage Books.
New Republic. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.newrepublic.com
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