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Fayana Richards, “Mothering Again: Kinship Matters Among African American Grandmothers Caring for Grandchildren in Detroit, MI” Doctoral Dissertation Defense
November 21, 2017 @ 9:00 am - 11:00 am
Please join us for the doctoral dissertation defense of “MOTHERING AGAIN: KINSHIP MATTERS AMONG AFRICAN AMERICAN GRANDMOTHERS CARING FOR GRANDCHILDREN IN DETROIT, MI” by Fayana Richards
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
9:00 – 11:00 am
454 Baker Hall
Scholars have long recognized the role of older African American women in providing care for their own grandchildren, nieces, nephews and even non-kin, crediting historical and structural factors that have shaped observed forms of African American kinship and caregiving patterns. Within the past decade, the number of U.S. grandparents living with grandchildren has increased by 30%, with over 2.7 million serving as the primary caregiver. In Detroit, it is estimated that close to 20% of older adults, primarily African American, are caring for at least one grandchild. Rather than taking these caregiving arrangements as given, this dissertation study explores African American grandmothers’ motivations for providing care and their associated caregiving practices. In identifying their motivations to care, the dissertation focuses on how relatedness is constituted, as a form of sociality, between grandparents and kin, as well as between non-kin. Over an 18- month period in Detroit, Michigan, I conducted semi-structured interviews among single caregiving African American grandmothers (n=21) and married caregiving African American couples (n=3) and performed participant observation with two local kinship care support groups. In analyzing this data, this dissertation examines the decision to care and grandmother-grandchild relationships by exploring grandmothers’ perceptions of wellbeing and how they are shaped by caregiving relationships. This dissertation addresses the following research questions: How are ties of caregiving responsibility created and maintained among grandmothers caring for their grandchildren? How are perceptions of the good life and wellbeing related to transmitting values to their grandchildren? My findings reveal how perceptions of a good life and grandchild care are closely tied to gendered, racialized and generational expectations of care. I highlight how the decision and process around providing care involves a ‘care calculation’ where grandmothers evaluate who to provide for against existing financial, emotional, and bodily resources. In doing so, I argue that grandparent caregiving should be understood as an agentive and intentional process, where the decision to care for grandchildren and its maintenance is more than simply responding to a set of certain circumstances and/or obligations based on biological relatedness.