“I Can be Unapologetically Who I Am”: A Study of Friendship Among Black Undergraduate Women at PWIs

Seanna Leath, Lauren Mims, Khrysta A. Evans, Ti’Asia Parker, Janelle T. Billingsley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current study explores Black undergraduate women’s friendships using in-depth interview data from 47 women (18–24 years) attending predominantly white institutions (PWIs) in the United States. Drawing on consensual qualitative research methods, we considered the nature and importance of Black female friendships among Black undergraduate women. We identified the following themes: (a) friendship as a tool to mitigate bias and discrimination; (b) affinity groups as a gateway to friendship; and (c) friendship as a way to navigate intersectional identity development. Two subthemes within the final theme highlighted how Black female friends (1) affirmed their self-image; and (2) honored their unique, intersectional experiences. Our findings demonstrate how Black female friendships are “homeplaces” for Black undergraduate women, particularly in regards to identity development during emerging adulthood. We discuss how friendships with other Black women offer unique forms of support during Black undergraduate women’s journeys in PWI environments that may challenge their wellbeing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-851
Number of pages15
JournalEmerging Adulthood
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • black women
  • emerging adulthood
  • friendship
  • higher education
  • identity development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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