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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 Three: Patterns of Communicating Support


← 92 | 93 → • PART THREE •

Patterns of Communicating Support

The previous section presented the relational culture of support in six stepfamily systems. Culture, at both the relational and family levels, shapes and is shaped by roles, attitudes and expectations, and actions. Within each case, I presented evidence from multiple informants (stepfathers, mothers, youth), multiple types of data (interview, observation, self-report), and across multiple time points (i.e., from visits spanning about a month with each family) in order to depict the relational cultures of support in each stepfamily.

It is important to note that relational cultures are embedded within stepfamily systems. Looking across the six cases, there seemed to be either a single, dominant culture where the relational culture was integrated into the family culture or situations where the relational culture was not integrated. Figure 1 depicts the ways relational and family cultures of support combined in these six cases. The model is depicted in three dimensions. The relational culture of support is shown as a dark gray oval with a semi-permeable boundary in the x-y plane and encompasses the process of communicating support between stepfathers and stepsons, which will be discussed in chapter eleven. In addition to the relational culture of support, one integrative and two non-integrative strategies for combining relational and family cultures are presented. These are depicted as larger, lighter gray ovals.

Four of the families integrated the relational culture of support into a stable, dominant family culture. In these families,...

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