Black American college students report higher memory of love for mothers in childhood than White students

Lawrence Patihis*, Corai E. Jackson, Jonathan C. Diaz, Elena V. Stepanova, Mario E. Herrera

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Cultural differences between Black and White individuals in the South are connected to the inequitable history of the United States. We wondered if these cultural differences would translate to a particularly precious aspect of life: memories of love felt in childhood toward one’s parents. Some past studies have shown that Whites score higher on parental attachment measures to parents than Blacks, while other studies show no significant differences. However, no previous study has ever measured memory of feelings of love in relation to differences between ethnicities. In this study, Black (n = 124) and White (n = 125) undergraduates self-reported the strength and frequency of their past feelings of love toward their mother and father in first, sixth, and ninth grade as well as their current feelings of love. Results suggested that Black students reported feeling more love for their mothers in first, sixth, and ninth grades compared to White students. These findings were not explained when we statistically adjusted for age, gender, socioeconomic status, education levels, income, number of years spent living with mother or father, stress, or personality. Therefore, this relationship may be explained by unmeasured or unmeasurable cultural differences. The direction of this effect was in the opposite direction from what we expected based on past attachment research. Given the inequities in U.S. history and the current discussions around ethnicity and race in the United States, the finding that Blacks reported higher remembered feelings of love for their mothers in childhood is intriguing and worthy of dissemination and discussion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)880-898
Number of pages19
JournalPsychological Reports
Issue number3
Early online date26 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


  • Black
  • emotion
  • ethnicity
  • Love
  • memory
  • White


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