Kin support in Black and White: Structure, culture, and extended family ties

2005 2005

Other formats: Order a copy

Abstract (summary)

This dissertation addresses two central debates in the scholarship on Black families: the disorganization versus superorganization debate seeking to characterize the racial differences in family organization, and the culture versus structure debate seeking to specify the causes of those differences. In combination, these debates produce four main approaches—cultural deficiency, cultural resiliency, structural resiliency, and structural destruction. Focusing on giving, receiving, and exchanging kin support as measures of family integration and using the second wave of the National Survey of Families and Households, this dissertation empirically examines these four approaches and in the process challenges the assumptions entailed in these debates.

First, it suggests that neither the superorganization nor the disorganization theorists accurately capture racial distinctions in kin support. Black and White families differ in the type of support rather than in its overall prevalence. Blacks are more involved in instrumental and child care help; Whites report greater involvement in financial and emotional support. Further, gender is crucial for understanding racial differences: Black and White men are very much alike, while there are many differences among women. Racial differences also vary by kin type: Whites are more involved in intergenerational support; Blacks are more involved in support transfers with siblings and other relatives.

Second, this dissertation suggests that both structure and culture are important in understanding racial differences and similarities in kin support, although structure is more important for the creation of racial differences. Blacks' structural disadvantage reduces their support involvement, producing a lower prevalence of financial and emotional support. This clearly supports the structural destruction theory. The data, however, also offer partial support for the structural resiliency approach: The lower SES of Blacks increases their instrumental help through its effects on family structure. In terms of culture, this study found that cultural values of Blacks boost their kin support, which supports the cultural resiliency approach. In contrast, the data offer no support for the cultural deficiency approach.

Based on these findings, this dissertation argues that the general either/or terms of these debates are problematic and emphasizes the need for synthetic rather than dichotomous approaches to discussing Black families.

Indexing (details)

Minority & ethnic groups;
Families & family life;
Personal relationships;
African Americans
0631: Minority & ethnic groups
0631: Sociology
0628: Families & family life
0628: Personal relationships
0628: Sociology
0325: African Americans
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Black families; Culture; Extended family; Family; Kin support; White families
Kin support in Black and White: Structure, culture, and extended family ties
Sarkisian, Natalia A.
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 66/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780542198229, 0542198223
Gerstel, Naomi R.
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
Access the complete full text

You can get the full text of this document if it is part of your institution's ProQuest subscription.

Try one of the following:

  • Connect to ProQuest through your library network and search for the document from there.
  • Request the document from your library.
  • Go to the ProQuest login page and enter a ProQuest or My Research username / password.