Stephens, Mattyna L. (2014-11). Human Capital, Social Capital, and Caregiving: Black Rural Grandmothers as Primary Caregivers of their Grandchildren. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of Black primary caregiving grandmothers in rural communities to understand how they learn to develop human and social capital to navigate inequitable systems and acquire resources for themselves and the grandchildren in their care. By making visible the lived experiences of residents in rural communities, it provides an opportunity to unveil the challenges that are oftentimes masked in these communities. This study also provided a platform for women of color, particularly Black grandmothers residing in rural communities, to speak out. Theories namely, social capital theory, human capital theory, and Black feminist thought were utilized to frame the research. A basic interpretive qualitative design was utilized to guide the study. The data collection efforts were done through the merging of face to face interviewing, note taking, and observations. There were a total of ten grandmothers who participated in the study. Seven of them were acquired through the Black Church during Family and Friends Day celebrations, and the remaining three participants were referred by individuals who were partaking in the celebrations. The findings from the study indicated that Black women caring for their grandchildren find it advantageous to be the primary caregiver when the parents can no longer provide adequate care. When taking into account the formal learning experiences, participation in continuing education seemed to be common among the participants when investing in their human capital development. In regards to informal learning, by participating in worship service, and faith-based learning communities (bible study, Sunday School bible class, and Vacation Bible School), the grandmothers were able to develop and increase their cognitive abilities thereby contributing to their human capital development. Importantly, they utilized the skills they acquired through faith-based literacy learning in the caretaking of their grandchildren. The findings also suggested that networking was essential to Black women's development especially those living in a rural community. When drawing from the knowledge capital of someone outside of their common social circles, the women were afforded opportunities for upward mobility. The knowledge and skills that they acquired from these networks helped the women obtain services that also contributed to the education, healthcare, and behavior management of the children in their care.

publication date

  • November 2014