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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 Seven. The Holland Family


← 72 | 73 → • CHAPTER SEVEN •

The Holland Family

Stepfather Buck Holland supports his stepson Mitchel through serving and guiding him. Buck works as a professor at a trade school located about an hour’s drive from his home. His wife, Caroline Holland, is a stay-at-home mom. She has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a crippling disease which certainly affects family roles and dynamic. Mitchel Love is a 14-year-old freshman in high school. The household also includes two biological offspring of Buck and Caroline, John Holland and Jane Holland. John is 9 years old and Jane is 7 years old. In addition to children in his current stepfamily, Buck is also biological father to three other children. The culture of support in the Holland family is seen through the role Buck plays in the family system as well as the types of activities and beliefs the family holds.

Buck’s Role

Buck’s role in the stepfamily is significantly impacted by his concurrent role as a nonresident father as well as his role as husband to a wife with multiple sclerosis. In this section I describe how Buck, Caroline, and Mitchel see Buck’s role as stepfather and some of the issues associated with his role as nonresident father and as Caroline’s husband.

As Stepfather

During my interviews with Buck, Caroline, and Mitchel, I asked them to share their perspective on an ideal stepfather. Caroline’s response indicated that her view of an ideal...

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