Towards the creation of a racially, culturally, and ecologically specific understanding of Black mothers' internal working models of their children
This pilot study uses novel research methods that have the potential to change how attachment research—and other psychological research—is conducted with Black families. 12 Black mothers (self-identified as middle-high income) were interviewed about their Black children, age 0-10. Participants were informed of the purpose of this study and asked to provide feedback on the experience of participating in this study. Findings: offer emic insights into Black mothers’ relationships with their children and mothers’ experience of working with researchers who match their racial and ethnic identity and White researchers; identify unique patterns of strengths in financially privileged Black caregiver-child attachment relationships as well as unique vulnerabilities, given the anti-Black climate of the U.S.; affirm previous studies that suggest that factors outside of caregivers’ control, including income, experiences of racism, and personal stress stemming from these experiences influence attachment and proxy measurements of attachment; include novel aspects of the working model constructs of maternal sensitivity and maternal affective experiences, and a focus for Black mothers on cultivating protective environments for their young Black children. Participants expressed a strong preference for sharing their experiences with Black researchers and a desire to connect with other Black mothers. Future directions for research include further investigation into culturally and racially specific aspects of internal working models, intergenerational attachment, and additional modified measures and research methods. The findings from this research draw attention to ongoing calls for important policy changes in various White supremacist U.S. systems, including the carceral, education, healthcare, and child welfare systems. In sum, the current study aims to address a research deficit by modifying an existing proxy measurement of attachment—now the Working Model of the Child Interview for Black Mothers—to begin to understand unique mental representations middle to high-income Black mothers hold of their children, and how their racial, cultural, and ecological experiences impact those mental representations to better understand their relationships and provide Black families with quality, appropriate mental health services.