Experiences of White women in Interracial Relationships: Individuals, Partners and Mothers

  • Patricia Ward

Student thesis: Phd


The University Of ManchesterPatricia Ann WardDoctorate in CounsellingTitle: Experiences of white women in interracial relationships: individuals, partners and mothers2015 AbstractThis research is a qualitative, heuristic study involving in-depth interviews with eight white, professional heterosexual women in interracial relationships. The women were found through an opportunistic or snowball approach. The participant women were in the age range 25-60. Six were married and two were in long term relationships. All women had children, seven having mixed-race children between 18 months and 23 years of age. Four women had partners of African-Caribbean heritage, three had partners of African heritage and one had a partner of Nepalese heritage. The women shared their reflections on having to confront the realities of racism, coming to terms with their own ambiguous racial position, facing the notion of whiteness and considering their social position as white women. The research was conducted using a heuristic methodology to explore white women's experiences, using creative images and personal reflective and reflexive narratives integrated throughout the text.The research offers insight into how the social experiences of being in an interracial relationship impacts on white women; as individuals, partners and in their role of mother. Implications for themselves as mothers and parenting their children in a racist context are explored and discussed. The findings suggest the women can feel caught between the known (whiteness) and the unknown (blackness). Having crossed a 'socially unaccepted racialised boundary' and challenging explicit dominant social, gendered and racialised beliefs, the women stepped into the unknown involving experiences of changes in status, challenges to assumptions of their maternal competence and living in a world which involved a continuous process of deconstruction and reconstruction of a new, unforeseen racialised identity. The white women moved from being an 'insider' within their own dominant social experiences, to becoming an 'outsider' within another cultural context, sometimes experiencing uncertainty about where they belonged. The white women experienced a shift of reference group orientation, with a new experience of continuous external scrutiny unfolding. These newly encountered social and personal events challenged the white women to review how they previously saw themselves, with this all impacting on their previously taken for granted social status. These experiences impacted at emotional and cognitive levels. As a consequence, the white women often found themselves occupying a liminal or unknown space where a process occurs of attempting to come to terms with the new experiences, new learning and adopting alternative strategies to deal with these different experiences. Implications for counsellors working with white women in interracial relationships are considered and suggestions for therapeutic engagement are made.
Date of Award1 Aug 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorWilliam West (Supervisor) & Elizabeth Ballinger (Supervisor)


  • interracial relationships, mixed-race children, mixed-race families, white women and racial identity

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