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Adolescence is a particularly important and challenging time for developing long lasting romantic relationship patterns.
However, limited empirical research has explored teen perceptions of ideal partner characteristics during adolescence or their ificance to the quality of current and future relationships. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 33 African American high school girls to shed light on the qualities desired in their dating relationships and relational factors that influence teen dating behaviors.
Girls discussed the important influence of parents in choosing a partner and provided positive depictions of friendship and marriage with a suitable partner. More research is needed to understand how and why adolescents desire particular characteristics, how socialization shapes black teen dating perceptions and how these preferences may be related to current and future adolescent dating choices, including violence perpetration and victimization.
Benson et al. These disadvantaged communities breed higher rates of violence, including domestic violence. For example, in one of the few qualitative studies examining dating experiences of African American adolescents, Johnson and colleagues found that the African American youth often observed gender-based violence in their families and struggled to understand the boundaries of violence in their own dating black teen dating.
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Furthermore, Raiford et al. Given that African American girls, in particular, may be at increased risk for experiencing unhealthy dating relationships during adolescence and in adulthood, more research is needed to understand why this is so and how their relationship preferences and dynamics may heighten vulnerability Black et al.
Given these elevated rates of dating violence, the current study sought to understand how African American adolescent girls perceive healthy romantic relationships and their hopes for future relationships in order to inform efforts to prevent dating violence. Adolescence, i. During this time, adolescents are developing their identity and learning to balance their need for autonomy with their desire to cultivate relationships with peers, family and dating partners Collins et al.
Simon et. Insight into what adolescents look for in a dating partner could help researchers begin to understand the developmental process by which adolescents become involved in a healthy adolescent dating relationship. In contrast, when asked about the desired traits of a sexual partner, adolescents were more likely to choose external characteristics e. Adolescent beliefs about the qualities of their future romantic partners may be equally as important as what they value in current a dating partner. Little research has been devoted to understanding how adolescent current dating relationship qualities differ from their goals for future adult relationships.
McCabe and Barnett suggest that, in addition to career planning, it may also be important to help adolescents plan for future romantic relationships. Parents may allow girls to date partners, but specify the qualities they value e. In addition, girls who observe respect and trust among parents in the home may be more likely to see black teen dating and trust as a characteristic of a healthy dating relationship. Furthermore, the dating experiences and behaviors of adolescent black teen dating may also influence their perceptions of the ideal relationship.
Connolly and colleagues showed that peer networks create a context where romantic relationships form and develop naturally. Qualitative methods allow for the collection of rich, descriptive data to better understand some phenomena. Using these methods to explore African American adolescent dating relationships facilitates understanding the complex and nuanced dynamics associated with this important developmental period.
The specific Research Questions were:. Why and how?
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Participants constituted a convenience sample recruited across 5 public and private high schools in a large Mid-Atlantic city. Sampling, recruitment and interview protocols received approval from the University of Maryland Institutional Review Board.
Eligibility criteria included: African American female high school student between the ages of 15 and 18 years old; enrollment in a participating high school; and, agreement to have the interview audio recorded.
Participants were asked to self-identify their race during the eligibility process and again in a socio-demographic survey completed immediately before the interview. A total of 33 African American girls participated in the semi-structured interviews. The age range of participants was 15 — 18 years.
By classification, 18 girls were juniors, 11 seniors, and 4 were sophomores.
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Given the age eligibility criteria, none of the interviewed girls were freshman in high school. Participant demographics are summarized in Table 1. Girls were recruited from various types of schools. Sixteen girls attended at public coeducational school, 10 attended a private Roman Catholic school for girls, and 7 attended a private independent school for girls.
Though socio-economic status SES was not collected from individual participants, the tuition required to attend the private schools suggest the majority of black teen dating sample was lower-middle to high SES. Additional information about the schools from which girls were recruited is provided in Table 2. Participants were recruited from informational sessions at each school during school assemblies, lunch periods or special class sessions.
To increase visibility of the study and encourage recruitment, schools were also given flyers to circulate to students and post in school hallways and classrooms.
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Three members of the research team 3 women; 1 African American and 2 Caucasian conducted all interviews. During the consent process, interviewers met to review the interview protocol and guide, and standardize the process of interviewing the girls with special attention what should occur if a student disclosed being in an abusive relationship. All interviewers had at least 2 years range from 5 — 15 years of experience conducting interviews and focus groups with diverse populations. All interviews lasted approximately 1 — 1. Prior to beginning each interview, consent forms were again reviewed with participants, including situations that would necessitate a black teen dating in confidentiality.
If, during the interview, a participant disclosed that she, or someone she knew, was in danger an IRB protocol was activated to determine the nature and degree of harm and the need for further reporting and notification.
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The Interview Guide included detailed questions about adolescent dating dynamics. Specifically, girls discussed their perception of an ideal relationship and how their perceptions may change in the future. If so, why? All recorded interviews were transcribed verbatim and entered into Atlas. Ti, a qualitative data management program Atlast.
Ti, 6. One member of the research team conducted the initial coding of all transcripts.
To strengthen reliability and consistency of coding across all transcripts, a second member of the parent research team extracted a random sample of data to evaluate the coding at regular intervals during the coding process. Systematic coding of transcripts in Atlas. Through the process of coding each transcript the first step in data reduction was completed. Next, Atlas. That is, qualitative data was assembled by its ased codes to help researchers understand what was being said Berg, Black teen dating themes were generated through an iterative process of reading and rereading the transcript files.
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That is, through a series of on-going discussions between members of the research team, themes were described, and sub were formed as appropriate. It is important to note that given the diverse school in which girls were recruited the authors did attempt to determine if there were differences in responses based on the school that students attended public, private, religious.
No such differences were found thus were combined and themes emerged for all students in the sample. Black teen dating section presents all emergent themes and sub, along with verbatim quotes to illustrate their meaning.
Though not quantified, all themes were endorsed by a majority of the girls. It is also important to note that girls were not specifically asked about their sexual orientation.
An overarching theme was the transience of high school relationships. Girls regarded all current dating relationships as casual and temporary. Girls did not believe that their current relationships would result in adult or long-term romantic relationships. Girls discussed their plans after high school and talked about not wanting to be involved in a serious relationship in high school.
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In accord with the individual level of the Social Ecological Framework, girls described a desire to be in a relationship with someone similar to them intellectually and socially and someone who may share their values. Girls felt that sharing things in common with the partner would make it easier for them to connect and may make the relationship last longer.
Girls wanted to be able to talk to their partner about their views on issues and to be able to voice their opinions about the relationship. Girls expressed a desire to be with a partner who shared their approach to school and academics. I want somebody with good grades.
No, why would I want that? I want somebody who has those same kinds of goals as me. Overwhelmingly, girls expressed a wish for their ideal partner to be their best friend. In support of the relational level of the SEF, the ideal partner would be a close friend that would be there for them when they were experiencing problems or struggles.