Case Study Questions


Devan is a 13-year-old biracial (African American and European American) boy, currently enrolled in middle school in a large urban city in the southern United States. He recently transferred to the school from a small town outside of a large urban area in New England. He is being raised by two mothers, Alexis, an African American financial analyst, and Kristin, a European American elementary school teacher. His parents have requested that he see a counselor because of his problematic behavior. Devan was recently caught skipping class and smoking cigarettes with another male student, Kris, age 15, from the nearby high school. According to his parents, Devan has been “acting up” at home, refusing to do his chores around the house and “giving attitude.”

Devan’s parents have been together for almost 16 years. They met in college through a Gay-Straight Alliance club in New England. They had Devan through alternative insemination using an African American sperm donor and Kristin’s egg. Kristin carried the baby to term because her work situation was flexible. The family recently relocated to an urban city because of Alexis’s promotion and to be near Alexis’s family. Alexis and Kristin were married in New England; however, in their new location, same-sex marriage is not recognized. Additionally, Kristin has had a hard time making friends as she is unsure how people perceive her as a married, lesbian-identified parent. Alexis has made more friendships at work, and yet she has encountered homophobic remarks in her workplace.

In terms of background, Alexis is from the South, is the eldest of four children, and was raised by working-class parents. She came from humble beginnings and is the first person in her family to go to college. Alexis describes her father and mother as being “very strict” and that her father was known to “use the belt” from time to time.

Respect is very important to Alexis, and she finds Devan’s “attitude” to be disturbing. Kristin is from a small Midwestern town. Her mother was a paraprofessional at the local school district, and her father was a professor and administrator at a local liberal arts college. She is an only child and describes her upbringing as “comfortable.”

Kristin’s parents encouraged her to express herself and she was given a great amount of freedom as a child. She does not recall having a curfew or strict rules. Kristin relocated for Alexis’s job but decided to stay at home for a year to help Devan with the transition and to get the “house in order.”

Devan has been upset about the move, stating that he misses his friends and the dog that they had to leave behind because they moved to the city. Devan complains that the school is “too big,” “the teachers do not care,” and other kids make fun of him because of his accent, his clothes, and his parents being lesbian. Devan’s only friend is Kris, an African American boy that is known as a troublemaker in the neighborhood although Devan thinks he is “cool.” Alexis’s response to Devan’s recent behavior has been to “tighten things down” by setting stricter rules, refusing to allow Devan to having any contact with Kris, and taking away his Xbox and cell phone.

Alexis will not tolerate his “attitude,” and she is considering “washing his mouth out with soap.” Kristin, on the other hand, believes the changes in his behavior and attitude are due to the move and having difficulty making friends. She has given Devan his cell phone back, allows him video game privileges while Alexis is at work, and is letting him “hang out with Kris.” However, the more she indulges him (which she had hoped would build some solidarity between the two of them), the more “sassy” and distant Devan has become. Alexis found out about these indulgences and “blew up,” taking away all of the electronics and locking them in a closet. Devan’s response to this incident was to sneak out after curfew and come back late, refusing to tell them where he had been. At Kristin’s urging, they have all agreed to come to counseling although Devan and Alexis are more reluctant to come.


  1. What parenting style(s) do you see in Alexis? Kristin?
  2. Their parenting styles may be influenced by their individual life histories, including race and social class. What do you consider to be the important issues within race and class that they, as parents, need to consider? If one of the parents were Asian American, what differences would you see in parenting style based on the research?
  3. How might you approach the differences in parenting style valued and exercised by each of the parents?
  4. What parenting practices for discipline would be considered not effective with Devan? What parenting practices would you recommend?
  5. What issues might this family encounter moving from a state that recognizes same-sex marriage to a different state that does not? What challenges could this family encounter in Devan’s school? Alexis’s workplace? Their community?