A qualitative study examining the experiences of first-generation Asian Indian divorced single mothers in the United States

Natarajan, Lalitha
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The purpose of this study was to describe, examine, and analyze the life experiences of first-generation Asian Indian divorced single mothers in the US in the first few years following their separation and divorce. The following three theoretical approaches provided a framework for understanding Asian Indian single mother families: Family Adjustment and Adaptation Response (FAAR) model, Structural Family Therapy, and Theory of Acculturation. The research used a phenomenological approach and used semi-structured open-ended interview questions to gain an in-depth knowledge about the experiences of the participants from their own perspective. All audio-taped interviews were transcribed and coded for common themes using the qualitative data analysis software, NVivo. Trustworthiness of the study was ensured through transparency throughout the research process, peer reviews, member reviews and thick verbatim descriptions.

The following seven major themes emerged from data analysis: (1) Calm After Storm of Divorce, (2) Always the Main Parent: Kids’ Happiness is Mother’s Priority, (3) Good Support From Community and Family, (4) Divorced, so What? We Are Happy With Our Life in the US, (5) Tough Times Initially With Financial and Legal Challenges, (6) Dating and Remarriage – A Mixed Bag, and (7) Resilience in Moving From Pain to Peace. Majority of the participants described their life to be peaceful after the divorce and did not report any major restructuring challenges. Most participants stated that their parenting dynamics did not change as they were primarily responsible for all childcare activities even before the divorce. Mothers reported that they had a good support system either through family or through the community. Financial challenges and issues with the judicial system were reported by the mothers but they were primarily during the initial years. Majority of the mothers were open to dating and remarriage but reported that it will be not be at the expense of compromising their children’s needs. Mothers reported challenges of single-parenting but also discussed their strengths in overcoming hurdles.

The researcher observed certain emotional process of the participants that surfaced during the interviews. They varied from grief, disappointment, helplessness, avoidance, denial, and struggle with loss of self-identity. Though it was an emotionally challenging task, it was observed that mothers exhibited a great amount of resiliency and used their internal and external resources to make life productive for themselves and their children.

Social sciences, Psychology, Asian Indian, Divorce, First generation, Single mothers, Single parents