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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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13. Identity, Relational Solidarity, and Stepfamily Communication (Paul Schrodt)


13. Identity, Relational Solidarity, and Stepfamily Communication

Paul Schrodt

Across the landscape of family forms that fill households in the United States and in other nations around the world, few have created more challenges and opportunities for understanding of how family members communicate to create, negotiate, and alter individual and collective identities than the stepfamily. Broadly defined as a family in which “at least one of the adults has a child (or children) from a previous relationship” (Ganong & Coleman, 2018, p. 8), stepfamilies involve a plethora of personal relationships that vary considerably in form, structure, and complexity. In 2013, for example, 40% of U.S. marriages represented a remarriage for one or both partners (Lewis & Kreider, 2015), and 15% of American children lived with a stepparent and parent (Pew Research Center, 2015). Using data from more than 9,000 households in the U.S., Wiemers, Seltzer, Schoeni, Hotz, and Bianchi (2018) reported that 20% of households have at least one stepparent, and nearly 30% of households have a step-kin tie among either parents or adult children. Not only do stepfamilies exist in some form in nearly every country in the world (Ganong & Coleman, 2017), but cohabiting stepfamilies, specifically, constitute a large proportion of stepfamilies in Europe, New Zealand, and Australia (Beier, Hofacker, Marchese, & Rupp, 2010). Consequently, research on stepfamilies has grown from less than a dozen U.S. studies in the 1970s (Espinoza & Newman, 1979) to thousands of published investigations by scholars from nearly...

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