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Stepfather-Stepson Communication

Social Support in Stepfamily Worlds


Jonathan Pettigrew

This book offers a novel analysis of communication in stepfather-stepson relationships and is one of the first to examine the ways stepfathers communicate and to integrate the perspectives of adolescents into research on stepfamily communication. In order to understand the complex dynamics of stepfamilies, Jonathan Pettigrew presents six case studies of different families. They are written as engaging narratives – including interviews – that offer flavorful accounts of family members and their relationships with each other. Pettigrew then looks across cases to identify, describe, and examine patterns of stepfather support. This book builds upon current understandings of stepfamily life by providing a descriptive and heuristic model of supportive stepfather-stepson communication, making it valuable for those who study and work with families.
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Part Two: Meet the Families


← 22 | 23 → • PART TWO •

Meet the Families

This section provides a detailed description of the relational culture of support between stepfathers and their stepsons in six stepfamily systems. Using case study as the form and ethnography as the lens invites a crisp and nuanced image of support in stepfamily life. Each chapter follows a similar outline of introducing the family, examining the role of the stepfather, considering family attitudes and actions, and describing the culture of support. Despite the similarities in form, the content varies dramatically. This section demonstrates diverse approaches taken by stepfathers attempting to support their stepsons. Cases are written as engaging narratives that offer flavorful accounts of real characters that describe the culture of support for each family in light of relevant family history and structural details. Before describing each individual family, it may prove useful to have some background about all the families.

Characteristics of Participating Families

The sample of participating families was homogeneous in terms of geography, ethnicity, income, and marital status. All stepfathers were rural, Caucasian, middle class, and married. Another commonality to all stepfathers in this study was that they all fathered biological children before becoming stepfathers to their 10–14-year-old stepsons in this study. Stepfathers ranged in age from 31 to 53. In all the homes, there were either two or three children present. Some families included both biologically related children as well as step-children whereas others only included stepchildren. To help protect confidentiality...

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