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Navigating Relationships in the Modern Family

Communication, Identity, and Difference


Edited By Jordan Soliz and Colleen Warner Colaner

Despite growing recognition of the diversity of family forms and structures, discourses among family scholars and practitioners as well as in popular culture continue to operate from the assumption that families are fairly homogeneous in terms of the values and beliefs, social positions, and identities of individual family members. Navigating Relationships in the Modern Family provides a unique and important perspective on how communication within and about families related to issues of identity and difference can ameliorate negative processes and, at times, potentially amplify positive outcomes such as well-being and relational solidarity. Chapters in this edited volume focus on divergent social identities in the family (e.g., interfaith families, multiethnic-racial families, acculturation and immigration) as well as differences emerging from family formative processes (e.g., stepfamilies, in-law relationships, foster care). In addition to synthesizing the current state of the scholarship in these particular family contexts, each chapter discusses the interplay between families and the larger social and cultural context. For instance, how does grandparent-grandchild communication influence attitudes toward older adults and aging? Can we improve interfaith dialogue in larger societal interactions by understanding communication in interfaith families? How do ideologies of social class and social discourses about adoption and foster care influence family functioning? Chapters conclude with a discussion on implications for scholars and family practitioners. The edited volume would make an ideal primary or secondary required text for upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses on families as well as specialized family courses on understudied family relationships and forms. The volume also serves as an important resource for family scholars and practitioners.

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6. Social Class and Social Mobility: Considerations for Family Communication (Debbie S. Dougherty, Marcus W. Ferguson, Jr., and Natilie Williams)


6. Social Class and Social Mobility: Considerations for Family Communication

Debbie S. Dougherty, Marcus W. Ferguson Jr., and Natilie Williams

Social class is a human phenomenon that is both shaped by and uniquely shapes different cultures worldwide. Some cultures are explicitly structured by social class, whereas others, such as the United States, cling to the notion of a classless society (Dougherty, 2011). In this type of culture, social class is present in both material and discursive forms, shaping contemporary families in overt and covert ways.

Social class is a fundamentally misunderstood phenomenon among family scholars, with little systematic scholarly communication research. Yet in contemporary times, class distinctions in the United States are increasing in scope, with a widening gap between the rich and the poor (, 2019). This gap is accompanied by political differences (Manza & Brooks, 2008), access to basic human resources such as food (Dougherty, Schraedley, Gist-Mackey, & Wickert, 2018), educational differences (Sheridan & McLaughlin, 2016), and access to work (Dougherty, Rick, & Moore, 2017). As a result, social class struggle very much shapes both the social and family landscape.

Contemporary families reflect social class differences. For example, social class is a major driver of family structure (Sawhill, 2013), with low income and less educated individuals less likely to marry and more likely to live in single parent households (Sawhill, 2013). Seven out of ten children living with a single mother live in poverty, compared to a little over three...

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