Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric, Theory and Culture (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Humanities

Advisor 1

Patricia Sotirin

Committee Member 1

Jennifer Slack

Committee Member 2

Diane Shoos

Committee Member 3

Shari Stockero


This study examines the stories of expatriate Middle Eastern Muslim (EMEM) mothers in the U.S. about how they talked with their children about the sexual education classes offered in U.S. public schools. Three concepts from the Communication Privacy Management theory (CPM; Petronio, 2002) were adapted to an interpretive narrative perspective drawn on Frank's (2013) typology of narrative types. A total of 15 EMEM mothers who had lived for more than one year in the U.S. were recruited in the study. Qualitative data were collected through written stories and interviews, and supplemented by the author's observations. All written stories and interviews were transcribed and translated by the author. The use of friendship as a method, narrative reflexivity, and insider status in working with the EMEM mothers' community are developed through the author's field diary. Stories were coded for emergent themes and the themes were then analyzed using the CPM concepts and narrative types. Findings showed that EMEM mothers navigate privacy violations by reasserting commitments to cultural and religious values but also by revising communication boundaries in order to talk with their children about sexual safety and health. Further, all three of Frank's narrative types--restitution, chaos, and quest--were evident in their stories and a fourth type--denial--was recognized. EMEM mothers’ stories concerning their family privacy practices articulate cultural values and differences between residential and origin communities and countries; gendered mothering ideals and expectations; self-perceived religiosity; and multiple contextualizing tensions. The study underlines the value of communication-focused assistance to help EMEM mothers navigate these complexities, lead their families to follow safe practices, and maintain family stability and well-being.