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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 Four: Lessons Learned


← 148 | 149 → • PART FOUR •

Lessons Learned

This volume provides a novel look at stepfathers and their stepsons. The volume presents the complexities of living and communicating support in six different cases. I focus on what is considered supportive and how support is communicated in these relationships. I look within each case to describe the unique cultures of support that emerged in the six families and also consider patterns across cases to offer a descriptive, heuristic model of supportive stepfather-stepson communication. Existing studies on social support in stepfamilies show that developing supportive stepfather-stepchild relationships increases youth performance on a variety of outcomes (e.g., King, 2006; White & Gilbreth, 2001), but do not show what constitutes a supportive relationship or how it is maintained through communication. This study delves into the “black box” that is a supportive stepfather-stepchild relationship, attempting to elucidate how supportive relationships are developed and maintained through everyday interactions.

This volume, then, contributes to at least four distinct areas of study. Most generally, findings focus on two underrepresented groups in communication research: children and fathers. Miller-Day et al. (2013) conducted a review of top communication journals and found that only 3.7% of articles published from 1997 to 2010 focused on children under the age of 18. While there are some excellent sources that synthesize the state of knowledge on children in families (e.g., Socha & Yingling, 2010), there is still much to learn about how children communicate. This study extends knowledge about how...

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