Black Adolescents' Supportive Relationships with Parents and Close Non-parental Adult Relatives

Billingsley, Janelle, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Hurd, Noelle, AS-Psychology, University of Virginia

Adolescents’ intergenerational relationships are embedded in the context of a larger network of mutually influential relationships. This dissertation examined how relationships among parents, non-parental adult relatives, and youth were interconnected to promote Black adolescents’ close and supportive relationships with their parents and non-parental familial adults. This dissertation also considered how Black youth made decisions about which adults to seek out for support when needed. Survey data included 216 Black youth (59% girls) and qualitative interviews were conducted with a subsample of 25 youth, their primary caregiver, and one non-parental adult relative with whom the youth reported feeling close. Results of the first study indicated that primary caregivers’ relationships with adult relatives may have influenced their children’s familial mentor formation through their children’s relationships with close adult relatives, but only when these relational bonds were especially close. Results also indicated that primary caregivers modeled relational closeness and encouraged and permitted their children to spend time with non-parental adult relatives. The second study examined if and how Black adolescents’ familial mentors may have supported adolescents’ relationships with their parents. Results suggested that familial mentor support was consistently associated with youths’ connectedness to parents across adolescence. Findings also suggested that familial mentors intervened to support the parent-adolescent relationship in ways that may have yielded similar effectiveness across adolescence. The third study investigated how Black adolescents made decisions to disclose to or seek advice from their primary caregivers and non-parental adult relatives. Findings indicated that youths’ decision to confide may have been topic dependent rather than based on a general dispositional preference among youth for whom they would share most of their concerns. Findings also suggested that youth appeared to go to their primary caregivers either exclusively or in conjunction with non-parental adult relatives across most domains of disclosure and advice-seeking, while youth went to their non-parental adult relatives almost exclusively when discussing family issues. Taken together, findings of this dissertation demonstrate how multiple co-occurring family relationships in combination with youth agency may have contributed to Black adolescents’ close and supportive relationships with familial adults.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Black youth, Intergenerational relationships, Natural mentoring, Adolescence, Family relationships
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