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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 Ten. Stepfather, Stepson, and Stepfamily Patterns


← 119 | 120 → • CHAPTER TEN •

Stepfather, Stepson, and Stepfamily Patterns

Having detailed examples of emotional, informational, and instrumental support across the six cases and having described how support messages are communicated through interaction, I now turn to identify five patterns that emerged from examining these stepfamilies. To provide context for these patterns, I examine each in light of existing research on stepfathers. The first three patterns articulate what stepfathers provide their stepsons in terms of support. The fourth pattern highlights how stepsons interpret supportive communication. The fifth pattern illustrates the complexity of communicating support in stepfamilies where a nonresident father and family is involved. Patterns reported in this multiple-case analysis prefigure the model of supportive communication, which is presented in chapter eleven.

Stepfather Patterns

The first three patterns describe aspects of support that were most relevant to stepfathers. These include findings that stepfathers enact a typical or predominant type of support: they communicate support in ways that align with their relational culture of support. Stepfathers also express differential motivation for supporting their stepsons. Finally, stepfathers draw on their previous fathering experience and seek to transmit social capital to their stepsons.

Predominant Type of Support

One pattern that persisted across cases was that each stepfather seemed to default to one primary type or combination of types of support over the others. In essence, the default type of support characterized the stepfather-stepson relational culture of support. One way of understanding the...

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