Date of Award

Spring 8-21-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

First Advisor

Ram A. Cnaan, PhD

Second Advisor

Lina Hartocollis, PhD.

Third Advisor

Janie Victoria Ward, Ed.D.


Adolescent African American girls who use physical aggression to resolve conflict are perceived to be a menace to society. Because adolescence is a developmental stage in the life cycle, society should understand that for many girls fighting is nothing more than a phase that these girls may eventually outgrow. Much like other adolescent youth, some African American girls who display physically aggressive behaviors can graduate from high school, go on to college and lead successful lives. This qualitative study focused on the resilience of African American girls who used physical violence in adolescence but later made a conscious decision to resolve conflict non-violently. In depth interviews were conducted with 10 college-educated African American women ages 24-46 that used physical violence to resolve conflict as an adolescent but as an adult learned alternate strategies. Findings included themes of age of first fight; how the girls learn to fight; the realization that fighting became an option for resolving conflict; was fighting enjoyable; were they bullied or harassed prior to fight; how family resolved conflict; how were disputes resolved within their community; source of fights in high school; the decision to go to college; how conflict was resolved in college; resolving conflict after college; the decision to change; reflections on the need to use physical violence as an African American woman. Findings suggest that in late adolescence or early adulthood the women come to the realization that the consequences for using physically aggressive behaviors are too great and that they have to find a more positive way of resolving conflict. Implications for clinical practice and future research are also discussed.

Included in

Social Work Commons