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Single African-American Mothers’ Experiences with Their Sons


The previous chapter provided a detailed review of literature to help explore what other scholars have found in relation to this topic. In this chapter, the focus was to provide a detailed discussion of the methods and strategies used to collect and analyze primary data. Robinson and Werblow (2013) explain that the fundamental objective of every researcher is to provide new information by addressing the knowledge gap in a given field of study. That objective can only be realized by conducting primary research. An investigation that focuses on this topic needs proper collection and analysis of primary data to understand the phenomenon.

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Chapter 3 starts by defining the purpose of the study to help emphasize reasons why this research was necessary. It then provides research questions that guided the process of primary data collection. The research design used in the study and reasons why it was appropriate were discussed. The chapter also focuses on the sampling strategy and sample size used, and the procedure used in selecting the participants.

Data obtained from the participants was collected with the help of questionnaires. The chapter discusses the design of the questionnaire, and how it was used to collect data from respondents. The chapter concludes by explaining the ethical considerations and the chapter summary. A detailed plan of the paper provides an effective outline of the steps necessary to conduct the research. It was necessary to re-state the research question that guided the study.

Purpose of the Study

The methodology section is important because it defines the steps taken to collect, analyze, interpret, and present primary data collected from sampled respondents. Percy et al. (2015) explain that when writing the methodology section, it was important to understand the purpose of the study. Restating the purpose of the study in this chapter guides a researcher to select appropriate design and data collection strategies that would help in achieving research objectives.

The purpose of the study was to identify the perceptions of single African-American mothers’ relationships with their adolescent sons. It was expected that findings of this study would help inform policies relating to parenting in the American society. The study would help in preventing juvenile delinquency and increasing academic success of adolescents in the society. The study would help design interventions for these families to improve mother-son relationships (Barajas, 2011; Roberts, 2011; Robinson & Werblow, 2013). According to Benner, Boyle, and Sadler (2016), the experience of single African-American females of being parents to their adolescent sons is changing.

This study is important to the community in general because it addresses challenges faced by a section of the society and defines ways in which these single African-American mothers can overcome parenthood challenges when raising adolescent sons. Practitioners of psychology will find this document resourceful when counseling single African-American mothers who are having problems parenting their adolescent son. The document explains to these experts the possible causes of such problems in a family setting and what can be done to address them. Scholars who will be interested in furthering research in this field will find the document critical in providing a basis for their study.

Research Question

How do single African-American Mother’s experience their relationship with their adolescents Sons?

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Research Design

The qualitative design for the proposed study was a generic qualitative study (Kahlke, 2014; Percy et al., 2015). The approach was suitable for the problem to be investigated because the generic qualitative methodology can be used to understand the experiences and perceptions of external phenomena, which are African-American mothers’ experiences of their relationships with their sons (Kahlke, 2014; Percy et al., 2015).

As for the research model, inductive analysis, a component of generic qualitative inquiry, was used (Bendassolli, 2013; Percy et al., 2015). The data was used by the researcher in the analysis process, during which repeating patterns were found in the participants’ responses (Percy et al., 2015). From these patterns, themes emerged, which were then synthesized to answer the study’s research question (Percy et al., 2015).

The data collection methods comprised of semi-structured interviews, which consisted of open-ended questions. The strategy allowed for follow-up questions to keep participants focused on identifying their experiences (Dworkin, 2012; Irvine, Drew, & Sainsbury, 2013; Qu & Dumay, 2011; Rabionet, 2011). According to Percy et al. (2015), semi-structured interviews are appropriate for data collection in a generic qualitative study (Percy et al., 2015). It was considered an appropriate way of determining the perceptions of single African-American mothers’ relationships with their adolescent sons.

Identifying the appropriate research philosophy was critical to ensure the correct assumptions are made when collecting and analyzing data. According to Fusch and Ness (2015), before selecting the appropriate research approach and research design used in a study, it was important to start by defining the research philosophy that guided the major assumptions of the study. Doody and Noonan (2013) explained that a research philosophy refers to the beliefs the researcher has about how data on a phenomenon should be gathered, interpreted, and used. A researcher can opt to use positivism, realism, pragmatism, or interpretivism, based on the nature of the study. For the current study, interpretivism was selected as the most appropriate philosophy.


Interpretivist, also known as interpretivism, is a popular philosophy in social sciences research. Interpretivism holds that access to reality is only through “social constructions, such as language, consciousness, shared meanings, and instruments” (AlYahmady & Alabri, 2013, p. 184). When investigating a phenomenon in a society, limiting one’s self to an observer who does not integrate and engage participants, can limit the ability to collect data accurately.

It may lead to cases where one makes wrong assumptions because of the lack of physical interaction. Limiting oneself to the role of an observer may explain why it allows a researcher to engage the participants directly, ask for clarifications from them when necessary, and ensure that an issue is understood as much as possible. The role of an observer is used in studies of phenomenology, social constructivism, and hermeneutics (Woolfolk, 1992).

When embracing this philosophy, a researcher is expected to take the qualitative approach of research design because of the need to identify how and why a phenomenon occurred in the manner it did. In this case, the goal was to identify the experiences of single African-American female parents of adolescent sons. It was possible to identify the experiences of these single mothers based on different factors, using qualitative methods.

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It was also possible to identify any variations that emerged based on their experiences caused by their varying socio-economic status in the society. The generic qualitative approach was the most appropriate research philosophy selected for the study. The next step was to select the appropriate research approach.

Inductive approach

The inductive approach was selected as the appropriate research approach for this study. The inductive approach is commonly used in social sciences. Unlike deductive research, inductive reasoning does not require the formulation of the hypothesis (Yanow & Schwartz-Shea, 2014). Instead, it starts with the development of research goals and objectives. One is then expected to go to the field and make observations that would help in achieving the goals by answering the research questions. The inductive approach starts with making observations based on the research questions and objectives (AlYahmady & Alabri, 2013).

One is then expected to monitor the patterns, before developing a theory or making a conclusion. The inductive approach was selected as the most appropriate approach for this study because it facilitates the use of open-ended questions to conduct an in-depth investigation of the issue at hand as required in a qualitative research as Dörnyei and Ushioda (2013) note.

Target Population and Sample


In this section, the focus was to conduct a brief discussion of the population of African- American single mothers. Various factors discussed in the previous chapter have led to the increase in the number of Africa-American single mothers. Although the exact number of African-American single mothers may not be easy to predict, recent statistics show that over 70% of African-American children are raised by single-mothers (Fernandez, Butler, & Eyberg, 2011; Varner & Mandara, 2013). The population is expected to increase in the coming years as these studies show that the institution of marriage is becoming increasingly unstable. In most of the cases of divorce or separation, children are left with their mothers (Varner & Mandara, 2013).

Identifying the target population was important to enable the researcher to select an appropriate sample. According to Benner, Boyle, and & Sadler (2016), identifying the experiences of single African-American females when parenting their adolescent sons required engaging the specific target group. Although there are no exact statistics about the number of single African-American mothers in the country, Brannon, Markus, and Taylor (2015) explained that the problem affects millions of people. According to the 2010 U.S. Census (United States Census Bureau, 2010), the population of African-Americans was believed to be more than 42 million. A significant portion of that number included single women with children.

The researcher focused on African-American single mothers who had adolescent sons at the time of the study. It was also important to note that another important factor was the place of residence of the targeted population. The research only focused on single African-American mothers who resided in the U.S., since the socio-economic and political environment in the United States is different from that of other countries. As such, those living out of the country were excluded because factors that influence their experience are different from that of the locals. These factors defined how the sample was selected.


According to Dworkin (2012), sample sizes for qualitative studies are usually smaller than quantitative methods (Dworkin, 2012). The sample was from a number of participants, which is sufficient for achieving data saturation (Dworkin, 2012; Fusch & Ness, 2015; White, Oelke, & Friesen, 2012). Clinard (2015) stated that when collecting data from a specific group of people, the non-random sampling method was the most appropriate (Ebert et al., 2015). The purposeful sampling method was used, which meant participants were selected according to the inclusion criteria for the study (Palinkas et al., 2015; Suri, 2011).

Purposeful sampling was necessary to ensure the right number of participants was selected for the study. Purposeful sampling allowed the selection of those who were part of the study. The sample population was large enough to provide information needed to understand the issue under investigation while at the same time manageable enough to ensure that data was collected from everyone within the time available for the study.

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Purposeful sampling was necessary to ensure that data was collected within the set time. The population for the current study was comprised of single African-American mothers who had one adolescent son, aged 14-19 (Fernandez, Butler, & Eyberg, 2011; Varner & Mandara, 2013). It was necessary to have a range of 80-100 participants in the study. The range was considered adequate to provide information that would guide the conclusion and recommendations made at the end of this study.

The selected age range was chosen because during this period of life, known as adolescence, the child undergoes significant physical, cognitive, emotional and social development, and parents often find it difficult to adapt to this change and adjust their parenting methods (Hahn et al., 2012; Varner & Mandara, 2013). Adolescence makes the relationships between the mother and her son in this period difficult, and understanding these difficulties is important if methods to facilitate these relationships are to be developed in the future. In addition, it was necessary to select single mothers who had at least one son. These mothers must have lived with their sons, so their relationship would be sufficiently close, and to reduce heterogeneity of the sample. Inclusion criteria were:

  1. Single African-American mothers aged 27-55.
  2. Reside in the U.S.
  3. Resided with at least one adolescent son aged 14-19.


According to Guirdham and Guirdham (2017), outlining the procedures used in collecting primary data is one of the ways of demonstrating validity and credibility of the study. Scientific merit is questionable if a study lacks transparency in the methodological procedures. Correct procedures must be followed at every stage of the study, and that was why it was important for the researcher to explain the steps taken to gather information from the sampled respondents (Guirdham & Guirdham, 2017). The whole process started with participants’ selection to the last stage of data analysis.

Participant Selection

Selecting the right participants, as described above, was critical in this study. It was necessary to develop the appropriate procedures to conduct participant interviews. The researcher posted flyers in parks, recreation centers, church bulletins, and Facebook posts. The contact number for the researcher was provided on the flyer. Once potential participants contacted the researcher, a detailed explanation of the relevance of the study was provided, and why these specific parents were chosen. It was also necessary to ensure that participants were protected. As explained above, purposeful sampling was used to identify participants in this study. The procedure involved selecting specific individuals who meet the inclusion criteria.

Protection of Participants

The proposed study was designed to comply with the ethical standards for a psychological study, in particular, with the Code of Ethics of APA (Hanson & Kerkhoff, 2011; Wester, 2011). Neither the participants nor the researcher was subjected to risks, since the interviews were conducted in a setting provided by the researcher (Fraga, 2016). The participants were interviewed using the semi-structured interview approach (Doody & Noonan, 2013; Rowley, 2012), and participants were informed they had the option to refuse to answer questions that made them feel uncomfortable (Hanson & Kerkhoff, 2011; Wester, 2011). To protect the participants, the researcher did not reveal any personal information to third parties.

An informed consent was obtained from each of the participants prior to involving them in the research. The participants were advised that participation is voluntary, that they may skip any question or topic they do not wish to discuss, and that they may stop an interview at any time. During the data collection process, the participants were assigned ID numbers that allowed for identification. Third parties may transcribe the audio recordings of the interviews, but no information about the participants was revealed to them, and a signed confidentiality agreement was obtained stating they cannot provide this data to anyone else.

After the data was collected and transcribed, participants were requested to review the transcripts, and make any revisions they deemed necessary. Data was only used to answer the research question of the proposed study. The data was used against study participants or anyone else. It was utilized solely for scientific purposes, and not for any other goals.

According to Lewis (2015), it was critical to ensure that participants were protected, especially when collecting data on a controversial topic. The topic being investigated in this study may not be emotive, but it is one that a section of the society may not want to talk about because of the emotional pain and financial burden associated with it (Cokley, Awosogba, & Taylor, 2014). It was necessary to ensure that the participants were protected.

Protection of the participants was done at different stages. First, the participants were fully informed about the purpose of the study and the reasons why they were selected to participate. They were informed they had the option to withdraw from the study at any time if they felt it was necessary to do so. As Lewis (2015) advised, the selection of the participants was done on a voluntary basis.

The voluntary nature of the study ensured that no one who felt threatened took part in the investigation. The next step was to protect the identity of the participants. Some of the participants stated they could only take part in the study if they were assured that their identity would be confidential. Rovai, Baker, and Ponton (2013) explained that sometimes-single parents were victimized because of their status, thus each participant was assigned a unique code.

This approach meant that it was impossible for anyone who accessed the raw data to identify the participants (Pachankis, Hatzenbuehler, Rendina, Safren, & Parsons, 2015). Participants were informed about the mechanisms when assigning them the specific codes. The above steps were taken to ensure that the identity of the participants remained confidential.

Data Collection

The actual process of data collection can be a very rigorous process. As Tricco et al. (2016) observed, primary data helped to identify gaps in the phenomenon. As previously, described, primary data was obtained from interviews of single African-American females parenting adolescent sons. The qualitative data (Bazeley, 2012; Jackson & Mazzei, 2013) was collected from participants during personal interviews, which were conducted either in-person or by telephone.

In-person interviews were conducted in a private room in a public organization (such as a local public library, school, or university) that was booked in advance. Yilmaz (2013) believed that a face-to-face interview is one of the best ways of collecting data, especially in a qualitative study. The physical interaction also creates a bond between the researcher and the respondents, making it easy to gather the needed information (Vaismoradi, Turunen, & Bondas, 2013).

For respondents unable to attend an in-person interview, telephone interviews were conducted. Bendassolli (2013) provided a rationale for telephone interviews, which included parents’ limited scheduling availability and lack of transportation. As such, it was easier to interview them by telephone as opposed to conducting a face-to-face interview.

Prior to starting the interview, participants were provided with informed consent forms. Once the signed consent form was returned to the researcher, the interviews began. Each participant was assigned an alphanumeric designation (i.e., P1, P2, etc., for participant 1, participant 2, and so on) to maintain their confidentiality throughout the study. Participants were also informed their participation was voluntary, and the interview could be stopped at any time, and questions that made them uncomfortable did not have to be answered.

At the beginning of each interview, each participant was requested to provide responses to the questions, but to feel free to add anything the participants wished to add or believed was important. Semi-structured interviews questions consisted of open-ended questions that kept participants focused on identifying their experiences (Dworkin, 2012; Irvine, Drew, & Sainsbury, 2013; Qu & Dumay, 2011; Rabionet, 2011). The researcher made field notes during and after the interview. At the conclusion of the interview ended, the audio recording was stopped, and the participant was given the $10 gift card. The following steps were used to collect the data:

  1. Advertisements, listing the researchers’ contact information, were posted on Facebook and in public places seeking participants.
  2. Once contact was established with participants, the researcher made phone calls to parents explaining the purpose of the study and requested their participation.
  3. The date, time, and location of the interview was established.
  4. Prior to the interview, the purpose of the study was provided and informed consent forms were provided to participants.
  5. Once the signed, informed consent was presented to the researcher, the interview began.
  6. The approved demographic questionnaire was provided to participants.
  7. The interview was conducted using semi-structured interview questions.

The interviews lasted approximately one hour. After each interview was over, the recording device was turned off, and the data collection procedure for each participant was concluded. The researcher thanked the participant for the interview. The researcher made impression notes about the interview.

The audio recordings were transcribed by the researcher. Each participant was emailed the transcripts of their interview, with the request to review it and return it with comments or revisions. No participants submitted revisions. All the data was saved onto a USB flash device. The recordings and the researcher’s notes were placed in a locked safe.

After the seven-year retention period, the information was destroyed by shredding and according to _ University, data was permanently and irreversibly destroyed or ‘sanitized’. A device that has been sanitized has no usable residual data. Physical destruction is considered the most secure method of destroying data. Other means of destroying data include reformatting the media or using special software to scrub the media. The National Institutes of Standards and Technology has issued guidance on data sanitation that described best practices for clearing, purging and destroying data for a vast array of media and was used for this study (_ University, 2017). All data was kept in a locked file cabinet located in the home office of the researcher until the end of the seven-year retention period.

Data Analysis

After collecting data from the participants, the next step was to analyze and interpret the data. Qualitative analysis of data was considered most appropriate when identifying the experiences of single African-American female parents of adolescent sons (Boeren, 2018). Identifying the experiences of participants was critical to determine emerging themes (Creswell, 2012). When done properly, themes emerged to answer the research question.

According to Percy et al. (2015), thematic analysis is appropriate for a generic qualitative study. Data analysis was conducted using the method of coding to identify themes in the transcribed data (AlYahmady & Alabri, 2013; Campbell, Quincy, Osserman, & Pedersen, 2013; Chenail, 2012; de Casterle, Gastmans, Bryon, & Denier, 2012; Percy et al., 2015; Pierre & Jackson, 2014; Smith & Firth, 2011). The thematic analysis was inductive and data-driven (Percy et al., 2015). To conduct it, the following steps were taken (Percy et al., 2015):

  1. All the transcribed data was read several times.
  2. The researcher then listened to the recording of each interview. Significant words and phrases were highlighted.
  3. The significant words and phrases were assigned codes, i.e. very brief descriptions of the contents (Percy et al., 2015).
  4. The parts of data that were similar were clustered, so that it was possible to find patterns. Each pattern was assigned a brief code. The codes were relevant to the field of psychology (Percy et al., 2015).
  5. The patterns were reviewed and themes were found in the data. The patterns, codes, themes were arranged into clusters (Campbell et al., 2013; Percy et al., 2015). Direct quotes from participants’ were placed near the corresponding patterns.
  6. The same procedures were repeated for the data obtained from each participant.
  7. The patterns were clustered and synthesized into themes. Descriptors were assigned to themes using terminology relevant to the field of psychology (Percy et al., 2015).
  8. The themes were arranged into a matrix, and the corresponding patterns that supported the themes were also included (Percy et al., 2015). Codes or descriptors were also utilized for every data cluster in the matrix (Percy et al., 2015).
  9. For every theme in the matrix, a narrative description was written and presented in Chapter Four.
  10. The same procedures were repeated for each participant in the study. After the data analysis process was complete, the themes and patterns that emerged from the data were combined and presented in a narrative summary (Percy et al., 2015).


Instrument of Data Collection

Data was collected from the participants using semi-structured interviews. The interview instrument included 10 interview questions. When conducting the literature review, gaps in the existing knowledge were identified, which helped in developing the study’s research question. The interview questions were crafted for the purpose of answering the research question. A detailed explanation of the structure of the instrument used in collecting data was provided in the section below.

Structure of the instrument

The instrument used in collecting data was comprised of various sections. Palinkas et al. (2015) explain that an instrument used in collecting data should also capture specific details about participants. The first section of the instrument focused on the demographic background of participants. The demographic questionnaire captured the age, gender, and nationality of the participants.

The second part of the instrument focused on the academic qualifications of the participants. Yilmaz (2013) explained that highly-educated and experienced people are more likely to get well-paying jobs that those who lack similar qualifications. It defined their financial capacity as they struggled to raise their adolescent sons in the U.S. (Kitche & Ball, 2014). The last section of the questionnaire focused on specific issues related to the experiences of single African-American females when parenting their adolescent sons.

The Role of the Researcher

The role of the researcher was critical in the study due to the fact that credibility, dependability and transferability of the study depended upon the researcher (Patton, 2002). The credibility of the scholar is said to be a factor in the credibility of a study (Patton, 2002, p. 584). To ensure the transferability of a study, it is paramount the researcher does not extrapolate the data without its careful analysis and without considering one’s own biases (Patton, 2002, p. 584). Finally, the dependability of a study required careful planning of the steps taken during the study, their accurate execution, and precise description in the final work to ensure other scholars can replicate the study (Patton, 2002).

The role of the researcher in this case involves data collection, analysis, and interpretation in an objective manner. It was critical to ensure the researcher remained objective throughout the data collection and analysis phase. Although the researcher engaged participants, it was essential to recognize and minimize potential researcher bias that may have influenced the outcome of the study. Nuri, Demirok, and Direktör (2017) explained that sometimes a researcher may use personal knowledge, which sometimes is based on misconceptions and prejudice, to make conclusions. As such, it was crucial to remain as objective as possible, as advised by Palinkas et al. (2015).

The participant’s words were not addressed, and only neutral clarifying follow-up questions were asked, when necessary. To ensure the data collection procedure remained neutral, the researcher refrained from asking additional questions related to socioeconomic status and participants’ education unless the questions were included in the list of guiding questions for the interview. The researcher also made a list of possible preconceptions and referred to the list prior to asking follow-up questions.

During the data analysis process, the researcher withheld judgment. It was critical to only make conclusions based on the data (Percy et al., 2015). The technique of generating and assessing rival conclusions was used (Patton, 2002). Also, the researcher made a list of personal and professional biases (such as being black, being a female, and having experience of working as a mental health counselor) to avoid biases of the researcher (Patton, 2002).

To avoid these biases, the researcher was keen on identifying common stereotypical words and phrases such as those identified above. Varner and Mandara (2013) argue that a researcher should always avoid sentiments such as blacks are always drug addicts or Hispanics are drug peddlers. Working as a health counselor has given the researcher experience that makes it easy to identify possible bias in one’s statement. I can listen and reflect upon a statement and then determine if it is influenced by perception that an individual has towards a given group of people.

Guiding Interview Questions

According to Nestor and Schutt (2014), when collecting primary data, it is critical to have guiding interview questions. As Zan and Donegan-Ritter (2014) observed, such questions were meant to standardize the interview process. It ensured that participants answered similar questions to make the analysis process simple. The guiding, semi-structured interview questions were developed based on the research purpose and objectives. They were designed in a way that made it possible to achieve the primary goal of the study.

It was crucial to draft interview questions that would help in collecting data from the respondents, that would answer the research question. Irvine, Drew, and Sainsbury (2013) explained that when questions are developed effectively, they help in concentrating the focus of the study and eliminated cases where irrelevant information was gathered from the respondents. It was necessary to draft interview questions to identify experiences necessary for the study. The following are the semi-structured interview questions that were used in collecting data:

  1. Tell me about your relationships with your adolescent son.
  2. What do you feel influences your relationship with your adolescent son?
  3. What comes to mind when you think of a mother/adolescent son relationship?
  4. Describe in detail what it is like to experience a relationship with your adolescent son.
  5. What do you do to maintain a relationship with your adolescent son?
  6. What feelings come to mind when you think about your relationship with your adolescent son?
  7. Provide me with examples or stories that will help me understand your relationship with your adolescent son.
  8. How do you view the mother/son relationship during adolescence?
  9. Is there anything else that you think is important to know in order for me to completely understand how you experience your relationship with your adolescent son?
  10. Describe your roles/responsibilities as a single mother to your adolescent son.

Ethical Considerations

Observing ethical concerns is critical in academic research. According to Cooper and Norcross (2016), a researcher has a responsibility to observe ethical concerns in the study. The researcher took several steps to ensure that ethical requirements were met in this study. First, the researcher had to seek permission from single African-American female parents involved in the study. They explained their concerns and suggested ways in which the needed information could be gathered in a more efficient manner (Bernard, 2013). The nature of the study was explained to participants. These steps had to be taken to ensure that participants understand the goal of the study and their role in it.

Participants were informed why they were selected to be part of the study. Protecting the identity of the participants was another major responsibility of a researcher. Yilmaz (2013) explained that some topics may be controversial and protecting participants from victimization was critical. To avoid such problems, participants were assigned code names instead of using their actual names. This strategy ensured that it would be almost impossible for a third party to trace individuals who took part in this study.

As an academic study, it was also ethically necessary for the researcher to abide by school rules and regulations in this dissertation. All forms of plagiarism were avoided. Data collected from secondary sources were referenced using the American Psychological Association (APA) style. The study had to be completed while adhering strictly to the above criteria. Data obtained from this study was locked in a cabinet to ensure that they will be in storage for the next seven years.


Chapter three of this study provides a detailed discussion of the methodology used to collect, analyze, and interpret primary data collected from the participants. There were a number of steps used in the data collection and analysis process. The steps began by defining the purpose of the study before starting the research questions. It then explained the philosophy upon which assumptions were made in the study.

The research approach and design was also discussed in this chapter. The research design explained the target population and sampling technique used in the paper. The procedure used to collect and analyze data was described, and included a description of the instruments used in data collection. The chapter ended with a discussion of ethical considerations that were observed in this paper. The next chapter is the analysis section of the primary data collected from the participants.


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