Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)

Spring 5-2010

Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis

Degree Title

Master of Arts in Communication

Department

Communication

Major Advisor

Dr. Laurel Traynowicz

Abstract

Recognizing that family (of any type) is a negotiated construction of individuals provides an insight into how people create the unique relationship that we call “family.” To gain a deeper understanding of stepfamily identity and how a sense of family is constructed, a life story interview approach was used to gather narratives from 20 adult children of stepfamilies. The narratives were analyzed using a qualitative/interpretive method, resulting in a balanced view of stepfamilies as having both positive and negative features similar to any other family type. It was found that individual adherence to rituals within the stepfamily provides a sense of family through symbolic communication. Additionally, it was found that children of stepfamilies describe a sense of family resulting from negotiating a complex set of relationships using an offer/accept interaction. This symbolic communication interaction provides children and stepparents the opportunity to accept or reject individual relationships within the larger framework of family rituals.

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