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Remaking «Family» Communicatively

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Edited By Leslie A. Baxter

Demographers have repeatedly confirmed that the nuclear family is on the decline. Yet when Americans are asked about their ideal family, the nuclear family emerges as the most valued kind of family. Members of families that do not match this cultural ideal face a discursive burden to legitimate their identity as a «family.»
This volume gathers together communication scholars who are working on the many kinds of alternative family forms, from, among others, grandfamilies, diasporic immigrant families, and military families to in (voluntarily) childless families and stepfamilies.
The organizing question for the volume focuses on resistance, reconstruction, and resilience: how is it that alternatives to the traditional family are constructed and sustained through communicative practices? Several chapters adopt a global perspective, thereby framing the issue of legitimation of «family» in a broader cultural context.
None of the family forms described in this volume meets the ideological «gold standard” of the nuclear family, and in this sense they all represent a remaking of the family in profound ways.
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Chapter Thirteen: Discourse Dependence in the Commuter Family

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CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Discourse Dependence in the Commuter Family

KARLA BERGEN



Commuter families, in which one spouse works and lives at a geographical distance far enough from the family home to require a second residence, reuniting with family periodically rather than daily, are increasingly common in both the U.S. (Forsyth & Gramling, 1998; Glotzer & Federlein, 2007) and other countries world-wide (Bassani, 2007; Li, Roslan, Abdullah, & Abdullah, 2014; Turcotte, 2013). Over the past decade, I have focused my scholarly work on commuter families in the U.S. (Bergen, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010a, 2010b; Bergen, Kirby, & McBride, 2007; McBride & Bergen, in press). During the same period, researchers around the world have investigated commuter families in Great Britain (Holmes, 2006), Japan (Bassani, 2007), Malaysia (Li et al., 2014), Labrador and Newfoundland (Walsh, 2012), Thailand (Schvaneveldt, Young, & Schvaneveldt, 2001), The Netherlands (Van der Klis & Karsten, 2009a, 2009b), Germany (Häfner, 2011), Canada (Turcotte, 2013), and among recent immigrants from Hong Kong and China to Canada (Man, 2011). Much of this research focuses on describing the frequency and nature of commuter marriage in a specific country, as well as the culture-specific reasons for deviation from the norm of the single-residence family. In many studies, participants acknowledge that it would be more desirable to have their nuclear family under one roof.

Stated simply, families are expected to live together (Stafford, 2005) and, in spite of recent attention to...

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