Off-campus UNL users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your NU ID and password. When you are done browsing please remember to return to this page and log out.

Non-UNL users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Stepchildren's perceptions of the contradictions in communication with stepfamilies formed post bereavement

Leah Elizabeth Bryant, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

The purpose of the present study was to investigate communication in stepfamilies that form after the death of a parent, as viewed from the perspective of the children in the family. The first research question guiding the present study was, what communication challenges are faced by children in stepfamilies that form after the death of a parent? The second research question guiding the present study was, what contradictions are managed by children in stepfamilies that form after the death of a parent? Interviews with 21 adult stepchildren (mean age 34.28) were conducted yielding 864 pages of interview transcripts. A qualitative interpretive paradigm guided the study and data analysis. Adopting a dialectical perspective, three dialectical contradictions were identified that characterized children's communication in stepfamilies that form post bereavement. All the participants experienced the need to communicatively manage the dialectical contradictions of stability-change, openness-closedness, and presence-absence in their stepfamily. There were similarities in the discourse of the children in the present study as they experienced and communicatively managed the stability-change and openness-closedness dialectical tensions. Besides these similarities, there were also critical differences in how the contradictions of stability-change, openness-closedness, and presence-absence were experienced and communicatively managed by these children and their families. These different enactments of the dialectical contradictions led to the development of a typology for stepfamilies that form post bereavement, which consists of integrated, denial, and segmented family types. Integrated families were characterized by their ability to respond to all opposing contradictions simultaneously without compromise. Denial families negated the presence of a contradiction by privileging one pole of a dialectical tension and ignoring the other. Segmented families tended to fluctuate between each dialectical pole at any given time. Results indicated the central role of the stepparent as the primary determinant of how the dialectical contradictions were enacted in each of the family types. Implications for researchers and stepfamily members are discussed. ^

Subject Area

Speech Communication|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

Recommended Citation

Bryant, Leah Elizabeth, "Stepchildren's perceptions of the contradictions in communication with stepfamilies formed post bereavement" (2003). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3092530.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI3092530

Share

COinS