Centered but not caught in the middle: Stepchildren's perceptions of dialectical contradictions in the communication of co-parents

Dawn O. Braithwaite, Paige W. Toller, Karen L. Daas, Wesley T. Durham, Adam C. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

45 Scopus citations

Abstract

The researchers adopted a dialectical perspective to study how stepchildren experience and communicatively manage the perception of feeling caught in the middle between their parents who are living in different households. The metaphor of being caught in the middle is powerful for stepchildren and this metaphor animated their discourse. A central contribution of the present study was to understand the alternative to being caught in the middle and what this alternative means to stepchildren. Reflected in the discourse of stepchildren is that to feel not caught in the middle is to feel centered in the family. Stepchildren's desire to be centered in the family was animated by the dialectic of freedom-constraint, which co-existed within the contradictions of openness-closedness and control-restraint. These contradictions are detailed in the analysis, along with advice to parents from the perspective of stepchildren. Implications for the interaction of stepchildren and their parents are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-55
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Applied Communication Research
Volume36
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2008

Keywords

  • Communication
  • Relational Dialectics
  • Stepchildren
  • Stepfamilies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics

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