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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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Appendix: Methods for Studying Supportive Communication


← 164 | 165 → • APPENDIX •

Methods for Studying Supportive Communication

Methods used to study supportive communication in stepfamilies, particularly between stepfathers and stepsons, fit within the framework of ethnographic case studies. This appendix details the methodological choices I made to conduct the research reported in this volume. I offer a rationale for the methods, provide details about recruitment, overview techniques used to collect data, and describe the process of analysis.

Designing the Study

Case study research does not follow probabilistic sampling logic (Stake, 1995; Tellis, 1997). Selection, or definition, of a case is theoretical (Hamel, Dufour, & Fortin, 1993); a case is chosen because it is particularly suited for examination or potentially displays the phenomenon under investigation. Thus, homogeneous and criterion sampling (Patton, 2002) were used in this study to select stepfamilies. Six selection criteria were employed. First, stepsons were between 10 and 14 years old at the time of the study. This developmental age range was selected to enable examination of support during early adolescence. Parental influence is still significant for youth in early adolescence but diminishes as they age (see Molgaard, Kumpfer, & Fleming, 2001; Molgaard, Spoth, & Redmond, 2000), and the transition into later adolescence has been shown to be particularly difficult time for stepchildren, often catalyzing dormant adjustment problems (Hetherington & Jodl, 1994). Given these issues, early adolescence was targeted as a selection criterion because understanding supportive communication during this point in the stepson’s lifespan may be critical for the...

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