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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 Nine. Types of Supportive Communication


← 96 | 97 → • CHAPTER NINE •

Types of Supportive Communication

The purpose of this chapter is to describe ways stepfathers across the six cases showed support to their stepsons. I organize this chapter into four sections. The first three sections discuss three types of support: emotional, instrumental, and informational (see McNeely & Barber, 2010; Wills et al., 1996). At a very broad level, these types of support encompass the possible interactions stepfathers might have with their stepsons. I identify and describe types of behaviors and practices relevant to each of these broad categories. In the fourth section I examine how these types of support converged or conflicted during stepfather-stepson interactions.

Emotional Support

Stepfathers showed their stepsons emotional support in a variety of ways, which are described in this section. They showed affection, provided encouragement, and praised their stepchild. This occurred both verbally and nonverbally. Stepfathers also spent time with their stepsons in one-on-one settings as well as with the entire family. Stepfathers communicated emotional support in ways particular to their position as stepfathers—stepfathers “claimed” their stepsons as their own (Marsiglio, 2004a). Although all six stepfathers admitted the importance of claiming their stepsons at some level, they varied in the extent to which they believed and practiced “claiming.” In this section, I also present how stepsons, through the use of the “Dad” label, claimed their stepfathers as their own.

Encouraging and Saying “I Love You”

The first way stepfathers showed...

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