A Qualitative Study on Successful African American Marriages on How They Create and Repair Attachment Injuries Using Emotional Skillfulness

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Shelly Smith-Acuna

First Committee Member

Artur Poczwardowski

Second Committee Member

Robert Atwell


African American marriages, Case study, Qualitative research, Behavior CBT, Phenomenological approach, Strengths perspective of black marriages, Attachment injuries, Emotional skillfulness, Successful African American marriages, Black marriages

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe the meanings that Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee Davis attribute to how they have adapted to their marriage and overcame conflict over the years. A purposive sample of this well-known African American married couple, who self-identified as being in a long-term, successful marriage, was used. The subjects of study were married for 56 years. An analysis using Colaizzi's (1978) method revealed 2 themes, with 13 and 2 subthemes respectively. The themes that emerged from the analysis of the formulated meanings were: (1) secrets to a successful marriage; and (2) sources of conflict in marriage. Secrets to a successful marriage included 13 subthemes: (a) egalitarian roles; (b) commitment; (c) forgiveness; (d) communication; (e) love; (f) honesty; (g) understanding the struggles of Black males and females; (h) friendship; (i) religion/ support from God; (j) compromise; (k) beliefs that marriage is a process; (l) emotional availability of spouse; and (m) feelings of security. In addition, the theme sources of conflict in marriage had two subthemes: (a) different decision making styles; and (b) experiences of abandonment. These findings provided insight from this couple's perspective on the secrets to a successful marriage and the ways in which they managed to make their marriage work, in light of the unique challenges that face African American marriages.


48 pages

Paper Method

Empirical - Qualitative

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