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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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Chapter Five. The Fisher Family


← 53 | 54 → • CHAPTER FIVE •

The Fisher Family

Bill Fisher works as a manager for a local business. Ideally work keeps him in the office from nine to five, but it often requires him to be “on call” and remotely supervise business projects. Pam works with special needs children as educational support staff in one of the local schools. The stepfather-stepson relational culture of support in the Fisher stepfamily system is predicated on a family theme of shared family time and on the belief that Bill should be buddies with stepson Steve and mediate conflicts between Steve and his brother Sam. This culture hinges on role differentiation between Bill and Pam. Stepfather Bill Fisher seeks to befriend his stepsons, Sam Shorts and Steve Shorts, whereas the boys’ mother, Pamela Fisher, is mostly responsible for administering household discipline. Bill still participates in household management, but he defers to the boys’ mother for most matters of discipline. In the Fisher family, the relational culture of support is seen by examining the stepfather role and two activities practiced in the family.

Role of the Stepfather

Bill sees his role in Sam and Steve’s lives as a stepdad and friend. I asked Bill how he thought his role in Steve’s life would change in the next several years and he shared, “I want—I certainly hope that it goes beyond the stepdad role. Not necessarily the dad role, but more of the best friend or buddy role....

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