Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Mary Z. Anderson


This study seeks to understand successful African American relationships from the perspective of African American females. Recognizing the impact of structural factors on African Americans, as well as the limits of imposing Eurocentric definitions of successful relationships, this study seeks to understand how African American women themselves describe successful relationships and to identify factors that have influenced their ideas about what is required for them to have healthy, happy, long-lasting, nurturing relationships. Design of the present study is informed by findings from Stephens-Williams' (1992) study of successful African American relationships, as well as a broader review of structural, sociological, and psychological systems influencing African American relationships. In this study, participants have certain characteristics such as identifying as African American women, and knowing about or having experience with what they would consider to be successful heterosexual relationships. A phenomenological approach is used to explore how African American women define their relationships, understand the messages and factors that have influenced their ideas about successful relationships, and explore what they feel makes or would make their relationships successful. Four themes were uncovered as the participants shared their experiences with successful heterosexual relationships. These four themes are components of successful relationships, factors and characteristics needed to facilitate and model successful relationships, barriers to having successful relationships, and optimism for successful relationships in the future. Findings are discussed within the context of Afrocentric and Eurocentric models of relationships. Research and counseling implications for psychologist and other mental health professional are also discussed.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access