School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling (EdD)


Kristy Ford


divorce, African American, effects, men, racial, cultural




The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study is to chronicle the shared experiences of working-class/middle-class African American men who have gone through a divorce in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory of cognitive development, which highlights the essential roles of language and culture, and Kurt Lewin’s field theory, which suggests the field as a practical framework for researching divorce, guided this study. The research questions were as follows: How do working-class/middle-class African American men describe their experience with divorce? How do participants describe their initial understanding of the divorce process? How do participants describe the level of social support they received during the divorce process? How do participants describe the effect divorce had on their sense of self-actualization (motivation)? What benefits do participants describe that arose from going through their divorce? The participants were divorced African American men who were married for a minimum of two years. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews, focus groups, and cognitive representations. Data was analyzed utilizing Moustakas’ (1994) standards for transcendental phenomenology to synthesize the crux of the participants’ recollections. Two major themes emanated through data analysis: (a) divorce is a multifarious emotional ordeal that is exacerbated by a lack of knowledge of the divorce process, and (b) elevated levels of diverse post-traumatic growth and self-actualization in the wake of divorce due to high levels of social support. Data analysis revealed three subthemes of the primary theme - a convolution of feelings, a painful and horrific experience, and stress compounded by a negligible understanding of the divorce process. Two subthemes emerged from theme two: the importance of multi-layered social support and self-actualization as evidenced by positive post-divorce transformations.

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