The Portrayal of African American Relationships in Popular Print
Martin, Marika L
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The rate of marital unions has been steadily declining throughout the years across cultures. However, in the African American culture this rate has been declining at a faster rate and a larger margin. The investigator was interested in the portrayal of African American relationships in popular print. Content analysis was used in this study to describe how African American relationships were depicted in Ebony and Essence magazines. A codebook was developed by thematically grouping together references made about romantic relationships. These references were descriptive of the attitudes toward men, attitudes toward women and attitudes toward relationships. The sample consisted of 60 magazine articles in Ebony and Essence magazines within the time periods of 1995, 2000 and 2005 that pertained to African American relationships. Out of the sixty articles coded in the category of the “view of marriage” there was almost an even split between articles in which African American relationships were seen as no problem or a minor problem and those coded as a serious problem or in a crisis. The code related to view of marriage, “change over time,” demonstrated that there was little change across the sixty articles that were coded. In the area of gender, out of the sixty articles coded tension between male and female relationships was found neither high nor low. The codes relating to whose fault (male or female), suggest that females were more to blame. Social and economic factors were portrayed as one of the largest influences on the state of African American relationships. One-way Analysis of Variance demonstrated that the variables ‘change over time’ and ‘social and economic factors’ were statistically significant by magazine. Essence magazine more than Ebony was likely to present the point of view that African American relationships had become worse over time and more likely to suggest that the state of the African American relationship was due to social and economic factors. In addition, social and economic factors as causes of problems in African American relationships were discussed less in the year 2005 than in 1995. Findings from this study suggest that Ebony and Essence magazines present material that contains an overall positive view of African American relationships. The discussions in the articles were not skewed toward one particular gender, view, time period or magazine. Many factors included in the literature were expected to be reflected in the articles in these popular magazines oriented towards African Americans; however, the articles did not focus on problems related to interracial dating, the independence of females, or the lack of trustworthiness of males.