Stepmothers’ constructions and negotiations of belonging
Murtorinne-Lahtinen, M., & Jokinen, K. (2020). Stepmothers’ constructions and negotiations of belonging. Journal of Family Studies, 26(1), 51-66. https://doi.org/10.1080/13229400.2017.1308877
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Applying a narrative approach and symbolic interactionist frame of reference, this study examines how Finnish stepmothers in their written narratives construct and negotiate their belonging. Belonging is a relevant concept in this study since it focuses on social interaction and intersubjectivity, and their emotional content. Three types of belonging were identified: (a) restricted belonging, (b) dyadic stepmother–stepchild belonging and (c) the spousal relationship as a focal dyad of belonging. Attainment of belonging may be especially challenging for stepmothers owing to their dependence on the willingness of the biological mother and father to share the emotional dimension of the parent–child dyad. If stepmothers fail to achieve any aspect of belonging, they are vulnerable to depression. This, in turn, indicates a need for clinical intervention. In sum, the results point to the key role of the spouses in enhancing stepmothers’ sense of belonging.
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Additional information about fundingThis research was supported in parts by grants to Minna Murtorinne-Lahtinen from the Alli Paasikivi Foundation, Finnish Cultural Foundation, Finnish Konkordia Association, and the Department of Education, University of Jyvaskyla.
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