Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Felicia Washington Sy, Ph.D., LICSW


Social Work


The purpose of this research study is to explore the life experiences of an African American young woman specifically focusing on risk and protective factors and their impact on identity formation. The research asks the questions, “What are the risk and protective life experiences of an African American young woman? How do these possible life experiences impact the way the young woman participant views herself and her world?” The methodology chosen for this research is a qualitative case study allowing for an in-depth and holistic look at an individual’s life. Two semi-structured interviews were conducted with a young African American woman and her uncle, who the young woman identified as a “special adult” within her life. Interview questions called upon participants to reflect upon the life of the young woman. The young woman was instructed to take photographs of the places and things that are most important to her allowing an active role within data collection. A visual analysis of photographs taken provides a meaningful interpretation of the young woman’s life including her dreams, values, ambition, and sense of safety. Furthermore, findings suggest risks within the forming identity of a young African American woman are relationships and social perception. Protective factors consist of a vision for her future, a sense of purpose, and resilience. These findings propose a need for future research, funding, and social work practice that is informed of risk and protective factor’s impact on identity development within the lives of young African American women. An informed practice has the potential to create a more inclusive world.

Included in

Social Work Commons