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Parenting in stepfamilies: revisiting the stepfather’s role

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Based on a symbolic interactionist approach, which focuses on family roles negotiation, this article aims to identify the different ways of constructing stepfathering in stepfamily households. Drawing on 30 in-depth interviews with co-resident Portuguese stepfathers, a diversity of patterns was clearly identified. Some roles, patterns or relationships are more involved, individualised and negotiated, whereas others are more distant, mediated and statutory. The article concludes that the way in which stepfathers build their role in a stepfamily relies mostly on the space granted by the mother as well as the stepfather’s willingness to engage in stepfamily life, taking on (or not taking on) tasks and parental responsibilities generally assigned to biological parents. In this sense, the stepfather is a secondary everyday-life parent, who is present and contributes, alongside the mother, to the education and training of the stepchild.
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Keywords: family interactions; family roles negotiation; fathering; social context; stepfamily; stepfather

Affiliations: Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon, Portugal

Appeared or available online: May 24, 2018

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