An Intersectional Analysis of the Narratives of Black Single Mother-Son Dyads

Armstrong, Miranda. 2023. An Intersectional Analysis of the Narratives of Black Single Mother-Son Dyads. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis examines the identities, relationships, family lives and social experiences of black Caribbean-heritage single mother-son dyads in London, England. The prevalence of single-mother family structure among black populations has been discursively framed as disempowering and hopeless for women and children. The dyad and family structure has been problematised for its perceived social ramifications and casually linked to a vast array of social problems, but these associations are generally unsubstantiated. This empirical, qualitative study investigates if the dyad is as much of a problem as claimed. It examines the perspectives and narrated experiences of single mothers of adult sons and men raised by women through 31 qualitative interviews. Some participants were interviewed a second time, which provided insight into shifting circumstances and understandings. Key themes which emerged from the data include mothers' excessive responsibility for their children, sons' ambivalence about male role models and masculinity as well as difficult emotional and psychic dimensions of the family structure for both mother and sons.

Overall, the findings indicate that experiences of the single mother-son dyad and single-mother family structure are complicated. But the research data also shows there may be some general positive elements of this family structure: mother's autonomy, self-discovery and empowerment, and sons' development of critical consciousness on gender and space to construct individual identities. More broadly, participants' narratives highlight the workings of family structure as a form of social division and single parentism as a form of oppression which respectively interconnects with other inequalities and social forces. These work through representations, social attitudes and unequal experiences of the city. In offering new empirical and theoretical insights the findings of the study contribute to existing sociological knowledge.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Intersectionality, single motherhood, black motherhood, mother-son dyads

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 May 2023

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

20 Jun 2023 11:52

Last Modified:

26 Jun 2023 14:45


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