Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management
Mary Lynn Damhorst
The purpose of the study was to explore how African American mothers socialize their daughters’ dress and consumption of appearance-related products. This study provides critical insights into how African American mothers serve as purposeful role models and how they employ teaching strategies to cultivate their daughters’ learning about being a Black female in America. Black feminist, Afrocentric, and standpoint theories guided the study to demonstrate how African American mothers are key agents in shaping their daughters development of understanding of social marginalization and how to deal with marginalization through self-presentation.
Sixteen mother–daughter pairs from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, were recruited. No age requirement was imposed for mother participants; the daughters of the mothers were 22 to 29 years old. Each mother and daughter participated separately in an in-depth, face-to-face interview with questions that focused on the participant’s family life, memories of socialization about appearance, preferences for dress, as well as the mother’s evaluation of her daughter’s appearance. Interviews were transcribed and inductively analyzed.
Major themes that emerged from the interview related to: (a) parental style, (b) mother’s overall influence on dress, (c) daughter’s influence on mother’s dress, (d) father’s influence on consumer behavior, (e) style outcomes, (f) being an African American woman—mother’s perspective, (g) being an African American woman—daughter’s perspective, and (h) femininity. The mothers described their approach to parenting as authoritarian; however, their close relationships with their daughters indicated authoritative characteristics of parental style also. These mothers purposefully set strong rules for their daughters’ appearance while they were growing up to help them learn that appearance is important for African American women to avoid negative stereotypes commonly held in mainstream U.S. society about African American women. Mothers instilled in their daughters the importance of expression of femininity, as well as development of positive body image and self esteem. Daughters recognized the substantial impact their mothers had on their shopping skills and manner of dress.
The mothers identified with Black beauty standards that embrace greater degrees of curvaceousness, whereas some mothers reflected ambivalent feelings as they encouraged their daughter’s to maintain a body that fit mainstream norms. Daughters who received encouragement from mothers were more concerned about their body image than were the daughters who were not influenced to fit mainstream norms.
Demographic data were collected at the beginning of each interview. Income level of mothers and education level of daughters had some influence on how the mothers and daughters interacted about dress purchases and reciprocal influence on style and shopping now that the daughters were adults. Fathers also were mentioned by a few of the women as socializing them to shop for quality products.
The findings have practical benefits for apparel and cosmetics marketers to understand the importance of African American mother–daughter dyads while shopping for appearance-related items. As African Americans spend proportionately more on appearance than do other ethnic groups in the United States, attention to this market is essential.
LaPorchia C. Davis
Davis, LaPorchia C., "African American mother's socialization of daughter's dress and consumption of appearance-related products" (2015). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 14692.