Raising her daughter: A phenomenological study of the African American stepfather's perception of his relationship with his stepdaughter
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1. Introduction 1 Theoretical Framework 3 Definitions of Terms 5 Significance of the Study 8 Purpose of Study 8 On A Personal Note 9 Chapter 2. Review of Literature 13 Introduction 13 Historical Context and Values of African American Families 14 Defining the African American Family 17 Reliance on and Transmission of Tradition 18 Pride and Cultural Heritage 19 Overt Teaching about Racism 19 Negotiation between Two Cultures 21 Belief in Education 22 Spirituality and the Church 22 Perspectives on Fatherhood and Father Involvement 23 Conceptual and Theoretical Perspectives 23 Forms of Fatherhood and Father Involvement 24 Dimensions of Father-Child Relationships 26 African American Men as Fathers 28
Stepfamily Living 33 Societal Views of Stepparents and Stepfamilies 34 Stepfamily Processes and Development 36 The Perspectives of Stepparents 38 Stepfathers 38 Stepparent/ Stepchild Relationships 40 Effects on Children Living With a Stepparent 42 Bonds and Boundaries 43 Loyalty Conflicts within Stepfamilies 45 Legal Issues Regarding Step-parenting 47 Chapter 3. Methodology 49 Focus of Study 49 Rationale for Qualitative Research 49 Researcher‟s Role and Credibility 51 Site and Sample Selection 52 Data Collection Techniques 53 Data Analysis Methods 54 Chapter 4. Results 58 Participants 58 Findings 62 Facts 62 African American Stepdaughters and Their Biological Fathers 63 Bad Relationship with Biological Dad 63
Welcome the Biological Dad 64 Mother/Daughter Bond 64 “A Package Deal” 65 African American Stepfathers as Providers 66 Psychology 67 Stepfather‟s Responsibility 67 Encouraging the Stepdaughter 68 “I‟m Daddy” 69 Spirituality/Religion 70 Education 71 Gender/Sexuality 71 Transactions 73 Communication 73 Quality Time 74 Discipline 76 Big Girl/Independent 77 Social Development 78 Relational Ethics 79 Respect 80 Commitment 81 Protector 82 Nurturer 82 Open and Honest 83
A Better Man 84 What She Calls Him 85 Conclusion 86 Chapter 5. Discussion 88 Implications 91 Recommendations for the Profession of Marriage and Family Therapy 92 Recommendations for Stepfathers and Biological Mothers 93 Limitations 95 Recommendations for Future Research 96 Conclusion 97 Reference List 98 Appendix I 115 Appendix II 116 Appendix III 117 Appendix IV 118
ACKNOWLEDMENTS I dedicate this accomplishment to my daughter, Alexis “Rayganne”, in hopes that she will one day understand why I stayed in school for the first 10 years of her life. And I thank her for her 10 year-old sense of patience. I thank my God for His purpose and grace. I thank my husband, Freddie L. Noble, for his faith and belief when I had neither. I thank my advisor, Linda Stone Fish, for her guidance; my supervisors, Wendel A. Ray and Kenneth V. Hardy, for grooming me; and my colleague, M. Coleen Speed, for her support and encouragement. I thank my parents for setting the precedence for education, and my sister and nephew for their incredible sense of pride which motivated me to accept nothing less than success.
CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION Society‟s image of what family is and what it should be has been continuously changing with the changing of time (Giblin, 1996; Zinn & Eitzen, 1999). However, its essence remains an intricate combination of people‟s personal experiences, existing family structures, and the beliefs or attitudes that people possess (Bryan, 1986). But even the particulars of those dynamics are changing (Bumpass, Raley, & Sweet, 1995). The leading long-established representation of a family is known as the traditional nuclear family (Dawson, 1991). This type of family consists of a man and a woman and one or more of their biological children. Variations of this image include a husband and a wife and one or more adopted children or a husband and a wife with a combination of their biological and adopted children. In many ways, these images have the potential to be positive because according to the definition of a traditional nuclear family, family membership is clearly defined and boundaries are biologically and/or legally explicit (Herrington & Stanley-Hagan, 1999). Yet, they can have a negative impact on various families‟ comprehension and insight of how their particular family is defined since families are not always so straightforward (Herrington & Stanley-Hagan, 1999). There are single families in which a man or a woman is raising children, biological or adopted. There are some families in which two or more of the family members are part of another family system (Bray, 1994). For example, there are those families that include two adult women or men that are in an intimate relationship with biological and/or adopted children. In addition to the previous example, some families consist of a husband and a wife and his biological children or
hers. The later family image has been identified as a blended or stepfamily (Papernow, 1993; Visher & Visher, 1985; Wald, 1981). Based on society‟s focus and attention on the nuclear family as the image of families, many/most stepfamilies expect their blended family to function like a traditional nuclear family (DeGenova & Rice, 2005). These families struggle to understand that building a sense of “family” takes time. Time has to be allowed for both cognitive and emotional restructuring. If stepchildren previously lived in a two-parent home, they have to learn to let go of their ideas of what fathers and mothers are like based on those previous familial relationships. Vice-versa, if stepparents had children prior to the marriage, it is important for them to change their ideas about what parenting is supposed to be by developing an unconventional parenting role for themselves (Herrington & Stanley-Hagan, 1999). In addition to the cognitive reorganization required in a blended family, there is also a wide range of common emotional problems within the stepparent/stepchild relationship suggesting that hostility and conflicts should be expected. These issues include stepchildren moving back and forth between households, feelings of resentment toward ex-family members, as well as sexual feelings between stepparents and their stepchildren. These issues support other authors‟ views on the poorly defined roles of stepfamilies (e.g., DeGenova & Rice, 2005; Herrington & Stanley-Hagan, 1999; Sager et al., 1981) where boundaries (i.e. sexual, generational) are more easily trespassed. Papernow (2006) has a rather substantial list of issues that could be a problem for stepchildren and their stepparents: stepparent‟s misunderstanding of stepchildren‟s losses, stepchildren‟s loyalty binds, as well as the biological parent‟s expectation of immediate love between the stepparent and stepchildren (p. 38). Another
significant issue in blended families is the challenge of establishing shared family values and culture (Papernow, 2006, p.37). Theoretical Framework An aspect of Nagy‟s contextual therapy approach is used in this study as a conceptual framework to provide a functional guideline to understanding stepfather and stepdaughter relationships. Contextual therapy offers a theoretical and practical vantage point for exploring aspects of stepfamily relationships as it explains how family members relate to one another based on the roles of caring, connectedness, loyalty, guilt, fairness, accountability, and trustworthiness within, and between, generations (Boszormenyi-Nagy & Krasner, 1986). According to Nagy, one of the founders of the field of marriage and family therapy and developer of the contextual approach, people can have two major types of ties to others: functional relatedness and ontic relatedness. He describes ontic relatedness as a bond that is dependent and cannot be re-established in the event of a loss and functional relatedness as a bond that can be easily replaced with another person (Boszormenyi-Nagy, 1965). Functional relatedness would describe the relationship of stepfamily members. The intense responsibility for reciprocity in ontic relationships commands an expression of entitlement. Nagy defines entitlement as an ethical priority in which family members are personally responsible for accepting the reality of their relationships (Boszormenyi-Nagy & Krasner, 1986). It is one of the main forces that binds people in relationships. “At birth every human being begins an undeniable, irreversible relationship based on biological, hereditary kinship, and fortified by joint possession in the inheritance of the assets and liabilities of previous family generations as well as personal
legacies, expectations, and unwritten laws within kinships” (Heusden & Eerenbeemt, 1987, p. 17). It is through these generational relationships that trust, merits, and justice are built and irreplaceable bonds are formed. Nagy also refers to this as loyalty: “Loyalty in contextual therapy is not based on a „sense‟ of loyalty on the psychology of attachment or attraction. Nor is it based on power-inspired dependence or submission of the weaker person, as in feudal loyalty to king or high nobility. Loyalty in our sense is a preferential commitment to a relationship, based on indebtness born of earned merit. Parents beget offspring and become obligated to their survival and nurturance. Parents also earn their child‟s commitment in return for mother‟s and father‟s unique, unrepayable contribution.” (Boszormenyi-Nagy & Krasner, 1986, p. 15) People remain loyal to their families of origin long after they have, by choice or necessity, broken their bonds with them (Heusden & Eerenbeemt, 1987). Loyalty is, therefore, a fundamental force in the formation of an individual. Nagy coined the concept of “destructive entitlement” (Boszormenyi-Nagy & Krasner, 1986). The term refers to the ethical dynamics of relationships, which evolves from a lack of trust that one suffered as a child. The destructively entitled child eventually loses trust in the world and develops a right for revenge (Heusden & Eerenbeemt, 1987). Destructive entitlement permits an open account for revenge. Therefore, if a child receives inadequate nurturance or has her or his needs for trust, devotion, or love exploited then the world becomes his or her debtor. An open account for revenge implies that every move that a destructively entitled person makes toward
emotional maturation is an implicit threat of disloyalty to the family (Boszormenyi-Nagy & Spark, 1984). From a contextual stand-point, the most important influences of family relationships are loyalty, commitment, and devotion (Boszormenyi-Nagy & Spark, 1984). The loyalty of a child towards both parents is of central and vital interest in contextual therapy (Heusden & Eerenbeemt, 1987). Nagy believes that a child needs to please her or his parents and wants to be loyal even when she or he is being exploited and misused (Heusden & Eerenbeemt, 1987). Loyalty conflicts occur when individuals have to divide their loyalties between two competing sources. “The goal of contextual therapy is to help all family members to shift their intentions in the direction of integrity, fairness, and relational justice for all family members in the systems in which they are involved,” (Dankoski & Deacon, 2000, p. 53). In other words, the contextual approach aims to help people change in ways that facilitate their ability to acknowledge each other‟s positive efforts. Definitions of Terms For the purpose of this study, the following terms are defined as follows: African American: an individual that represents a distinct ethnic and racial experience that is unique for a number of reasons including history, the African legacy, the experience of slavery, racism, and discrimination, and the victim system (Boyd- Franklin, 2003). Blended (or step) family: a family formed when an individual marries another individual with children from a previous relationship, who all primarily reside within the same household.
Context: the entire fabric of prospective resources available for all persons involved in the relationship. It includes the ethics of the individual vantage points of all members, the dialogues between them, the systems of their transactional patterns and trans-generational consequences (Heusden & Erenbeemt, 1987). Contextual Therapy: a therapeutic approach based on the empirical knowledge that a person‟s fair consideration of his or her relational obligations can result in personal freedom to participate in life‟s activities, satisfactions, and enjoyment. Commitment rather than affect is the cornerstone of contextual therapy (Boszormenyi-Nagy & Krasner, 1986). Counterautonomous Superego: describes a personality formation that will automatically censure and reject a person‟s urges towards his own individuation, engagement with peers, or assumption of adequate adult roles (Boszormenyi-Nagy & Krasner, 1986). Dimensions: these represent fundamental, non-reducible categories of both relational behavior and therapy. The dimensions of facts, psychology, transactions (power), and ethics of dependability are always present in human relationships (Heusden & Erenbeemt, 1987). Entitlement: the relational credit, accumulating in the self as a result of due consideration offered to the partner. It is a significant part of fair balancing in asymmetrical (parent-child) relationships. It is different from an arrogant attitude of entitlement and the psychic state of sense of entitlement. Its main effect results in liberation for life and productivity (Heusden & Erenbeemt, 1987). Family: any group of people united by ties of marriage, blood, or adoption, or any
sexually expressive relationship in which the following four factors are true: (1) the adults cooperate financially for their mutual support, (2) the people are committed to one another in an intimate interpersonal relationship, (3) the members see their individual identities as importantly attached to the group, and (4) the group has an identity of its own (DeGenova & Rice, 2005). Family of origin: the family into which you were born and in which you were raised (DeGenova & Rice, 2005). Legacy: the current generation‟s ethical obligation to restore the benefits of life and make positive changes for the sake of future generations (Dankoski & Deacon, 2000). Loyalty: a context of relationship invested with merit earned by blood-related kinship or by fair consideration. It is a triadic notion involving the preferential rating of one relational commitment over another (Heusden & Erenbeemt, 1987). Loyalty Conflict: A competition between the claims of filial and horizontal (e.g., marital) loyalties (Heusden & Erenbeemt, 1987). Nuclear family: a biological or adopted father, a biological or adopted mother, and their children. Split Loyalties: loyalty conflicts that result when people have to divide their loyalties between two competing sources to which they are indebted such as a mother and a father or a family of origin and a family of procreation (Dankoski & Deacon, 2000). Symmetry and Asymmetry: symmetry deals with the ethics of fairness between people. It
pertains to balances of justifiable expectations (e.g., between adult and child), equitability of contributions, and burden of consequences (Heusden & Erenbeemt, 1987). Significance of the Study Literature on the relationship of African American stepfathers and their stepdaughters is extremely limited. Most of what has been researched involves the entire blended family and is void of any racial or ethnic distinction. In other words, it is almost impossible to find literature that brings together current cultural knowledge about African American families and the relationship between stepfathers and stepdaughters. The information that is published is “dispersed throughout a multitude of disciplines from psychology, psychiatry, and psychiatric social work to education, anthropology, sociology, and history” (Boyd-Franklin, 2003, p. 3; Cochran, 1995; Cochran, 1997). This study proposes to fill that gap, creating a grave contribution to the literature and field of marriage and family therapy by researching an aspect of blended families that has not been adequately studied: the nature of the relationship between the African American stepfather and stepdaughter. In doing so, this study helps to provide information about the experience of African American stepfathers and stepdaughters that describes the formation of their relationship and its maintenance. Purpose of Study The African American blended family, in which the father is the step-parent residing in the home with a stepdaughter, symbolizes a unique and distinct cultural unit. Within this entity, there is a vast amount of diversity. This study focuses on these subsystems exclusively. It attempts to expand the knowledge of the cultural variables in
African American blended families and helps to provide information about areas of healthy, successful, and effective family functioning for clinicians seeking to work with African American blended families. This study considers the complexity of the relationship between African American stepfathers and their stepdaughters. Members of blended families naturally come into step-family relationships with some unrealistic expectations of their new family members based on how families are portrayed by the dominant culture (e.g., Afifi, 2003; Banker & Gaertner, 1998; Bray, 1994; Fine, 1995). In reality, blended family life and relationship maintenance is far from clear-cut or easy (e.g., Afifi, 2003; Banker & Gaertner, 1998; Bray, 1994; Fine, 1995). Furthermore, establishing a bond between a stepfather and his stepdaughter is especially challenging. This study explores African American stepfathers‟ views on how their relationships with their stepdaughters are influenced by life experiences as well as societal and cultural constraints. The purpose of this study is to describe what African American stepfathers experience in their relationships with their stepdaughters from the view point of the stepfathers.
On A Personal Note Who Am I? The woman my God meant for me to be The wife my husband expects me to be The mother my girl needs me to be The daughter my father raised me to be The professional my mother motivated me to be Who Am I? Blessed with joy, determination, peace, and love Full of life, energy, laughter, and truth Astounded by beauty, respect, wisdom, and Him Who Am I? Just Me.
I grew up in a traditional nuclear family. My parents married at 21 and 22, right out of college and had me a week after their first anniversary. I am their oldest child; they had my only sister 23 months later. Less than a year after my sister‟s birth my mother had a tubular pregnancy that resulted in a hysterectomy. My parents have been married now for over thirty years. As a family we attended church almost every Sunday during my youth. We have had bible studies every morning of our week-long family reunion every summer for the past thirty-something summers. I was taught to honor God and allow Him to be the guiding light in everything that I do. I understand that my religion, my culture, my past, my present and my view are all tainted with a strength-based outlook or focus. I was encouraged to be resourceful. It can be safely assumed that religion is the center of my being. Growing up, I was what everyone called a “daddy‟s girl”. I looked up to, depended on, admired, and believed in my daddy . . . until my idealized father gravely disappointed me during my sixth grade school-year. Prior to this moment I depended on my grandmother‟s prayers to help me stay grounded and believed that her faith would carry me through difficult times. It was when my daddy was arrested that I developed my own personal relationship with God. I partially re-gained my respect for my daddy shortly after I began high school and then completely in the later part of my undergraduate career. My relationship with my daddy has always been of great significance to me, even when it was tenuous.
I believe all little girls need their daddies to groom them to be healthy, competitive, respectful young ladies. I believe that daddies are needed to protect their daughters from the greedy, the aggressive, the malicious, and people with mal-intent. I believe that it is daddies that pick little girls up when they fall and scrape their knees. I believe daddies play a key role in their daughters experience and sense of love and desire I believe these things because this is what my daddy did for me. The Greatest Gift
Can I tell you about the greatest gift my father ever gave to me? My father has given me many gifts, you see. . . Things tangible and none Things complex, some simple, some fun. Things I do not remember, Others I prefer not. Some long lasting, many monetary. . . And the list goes on But, I will stop. Because I want to tell you about this gift This particular gift This particular gift was the greatest gift My father ever gave to me. It was the immaculate untainted ideology of Black Beauty. He told me I was beautiful with No hesitation He encouraged my beauty with No reservation He inspired my beauty with No stipulation He groomed my beauty with No domination My understanding of this gift Was all he asked for So why do so many brothers Ask for so much more? Brother, my father made it hard for you. When you tell me I am beautiful, I do not open my mouth, my heart, my arms, Or my legs to show you my appreciation.
I won‟t give you my name, my number, my time, Or my esteem for your worthless gratification. Brother, I do not need your false sense of security, Your out-dated gift of flattery, Or for you to become my groom. I do not need your shallow amplification Of something I already assume And so. . . Even before you tell me I am beautiful, I simply smile that smile and wink a wink That says, “I already know.”
I had no personal experience with blended families until my second marriage. With the vows, I inherited three step-daughters and he got one. I had to learn how to be a step-mother to three teen-aged girls and he had to re-define his role in my daughter‟s life. He became her “Mr. Big” and she became his “Pretty Rayganne”. I watch them grow as I do my research and pray that whatever they do in their relationship will somehow be the best thing that could have been done.
CHAPTER 2. REVIEW OF LITERATURE Introduction According to a 2000 U.S. Census Special Report (Kreider, 2003), 75% of couples who get divorced remarry, and 66% of those remarriages involve children. In accordance, Stepfamily Foundations (2007) report nearly 1 million children experience divorce a year and at least 1300 new stepfamilies are forming every day. The number of children that were identified as stepchildren living in the home with at least one stepparent in the year 2000 was 4,384,581 children (U.S. Census, 2000). This is approximately 5% of the total number of children reported living in the United States, (U.S. Census, 2000). This is a misleading representation for at least two reasons: the total reported households reflect only about 1 out of every 6 households and the only children that were shown in this report were children of the person identified as the head of the household, or “householder” (Kreider, 2003). The later justification excludes the children of couples living with their parents, making them grandchildren of the householder. It excludes children that are biological children of the householder, but stepchildren of another adult living in the home who is not considered the householder. It also excludes stepchildren that have been adopted by their stepparent. Furthermore, of the total number of stepchildren under the age of 18 that were reported, approximately 12% of them were African American (Kreider, 2003). “As an institution, the American family serves a pivotal role in shaping identity, teaching us who we are in relation to others,” (Braithwaite, Olson, Golish, Soukup, & Turman, 2001, p. 221). Due to increased divorce and remarriage rates and other changes in parental relationships, stepfamilies have become a prevalent family form. This increase
leads to a heightened need to better understand this family form, especially within the African American community. Several studies have focused on the impact of societal views on stepfamilies (Baxter et al. 1999; Braithwaite et al., 2001; Cabrera et al., 2000l; Coleman, Ganong & Fine, 2000). Research findings suggest that cultural beliefs about family life exert a strong influence on the ways in which people behave, assess their own circumstances, and expect to be viewed by others (Ganong & Coleman, 1997). And although the research designs of these studies have been more sophisticated in the past ten years with its reflection of diversity within and between stepfamilies, most of the datasets significantly lack racial diversity. Hence, there is a strong need for more systematic and representative research regarding African American stepfamilies. The four sections of this chapter are concerned with integrating significant premises of the literature as it relates to African American stepfathers and stepdaughters: (1) the historical context of African American families; (2) the roles of African American parents; (3) perspectives on fatherhood and father involvement; and (4) the dynamics of stepfamily living. Historical Context and Values of African American Families While each individual culture has its own unique experiences within the American culture with racism, rejection, and the intrusion of the dominant society, the African American family has been immensely distorted by the history and effects of slavery (Boyd-Franklin, 2003). Even now, almost 150 years after the release of the last legal slave; violence, bigotry, prejudice, oppression, and stereotyping based on race still exist. African people were transported to this country as slaves from African tribal communities. The institution of slavery was disruptive to the transmission of the African
culture and the treatment of slaves was extremely harsh and inhumane. Slaves were considered objects of commercial value and property, and they were regulated by legally authorized violence. In addition to the physical abuse, slaves were at constant risk of losing members of their families if their owners decided to trade them for profit or in order to pay off debt. Scores of family members were sold away from one another. As well, certain African men and women were selected to serve as breeders, and some women were taken by their masters as concubines. Traditional tribal marriages were not allowed, nor were slaves allowed to marry according to European practices (Boyd- Franklin, 2003; Glover et al., 2003). Women were forced to devote most of their energies to work rather than to family life and at the same time men were deprived of their roles as bread winners, protectors, and heads of the family (Hill, 2002) which in essence hindered the socialization of traditional African values of gender. Because of their strong African heritage and sense of loyalty, African American people aspired to maintain their spiritual rituals and tribal customs. They created their own marriage rituals like jumping over a broom to symbolize a union between a man and a woman (Boyd-Franklin, 2003). They began “taking in” the children of slave families when their parents were sold away or killed, a process known today as informal adoption (Hines & Boyd-Franklin, 1982). In order to cope with the pressures of oppression, they sang songs with hidden messages of escape, liberation, and rebellion, known as “Negro spirituals” (Glover et al., 2003). In the face of enforced degradation, African American people developed a network of kinship as a functional means of survival. Yet and still, slavery set a tone for African Americans to be treated as inferior and the color of their skin became “a badge of indifference” (Boyd-Franklin, 2003).
African American people are still constantly impacted by racism and discrimination as a residual effect of slavery. The process of discrimination began with theories about genetic inferiority and cultural pathology; which led to segregation and other inequities; and ultimately developed into disproportionate numbers of African American people who are poor, homeless, living in substandard housing, unemployed, and school dropouts (Ward, 2000). Discrimination and racism are expressed today in subtle ways despite the Civil Rights movement in the 1960‟s and advancements of the 1970‟s (Sigelman & Welch, 1991). African American people continue to experience an unexplainable sense of injustice regardless of their economic status, their level of education, the neighborhood in which they live, their career, or their job level (Boyd- Franklin, 2003; Sigelman & Welch, 1991). Current research takes into account the history of African Americans, embracing their unique family patterns and cultural traditions, and provides a true comparison of reference for the African American family (e.g., Boyd-Franklin, 2003; Hurd, Moore, & Rogers, 1995; Nobles, 1985). Out-of-context comparisons that once rendered African American families as being not only different but also deficient have been challenged and replaced by research in which positive and negative outcomes are possible but not distorted by inappropriate paradigms, unsuitable methods, or substantial errors (Hill, 2001). Redirected research efforts highlight the legacy of strength, stability, and resilience that belongs to African American families (Billingsley, 1992; DuBois, 1982; Giblin, 1996; Hill, 1999; McAdoo, 1993). This research illustrates how present day African American families are as diverse in structure and personality as were their African forefathers.
African American families are influenced by forces such as ethnic identification, self-identification, religious affirmation, geographical location, economic status, social standing, and family composition (Sanders, 2002). Current research also confirms how the matriarchal model that typifies many African American families grew in response to a culture of slavery and its aftermath in which males were often forced to abandon the family for reasons of safety or economics (e.g., Hill, 2001; Mosley-Howard & Evans, 2000; Sanders, 2002). In other words, current research provides evidence that the matriarchal structure surfaced not as a natural evolutionary response but instead resulted from social and cultural stressors (Sanders, 2002). Defining the African American Family Despite the many historical tribulations that continue to plague African American families, they have developed a number of characteristics that are positively functional. Mosley-Howard and Evans (2000) designed an ethnographic study of relationships and experiences of African American families and found six themes: (1) reliance on and transmission of tradition, (2) pride in cultural heritage, (3) overt teaching about racism, (4) negotiation between two cultures, (5) belief in education, and (6) spirituality and the church. Mosley-Howard and Evans (2000) are careful to mention that none of these characteristics are exclusive to African Americans and these scholars further specify that individuals within the African American community possess various degrees of these traits. They simply desire that research defining the African American family indicates that these strengths belong to all African American families, regardless of their class and individual differences (Mosley-Howard and Evans, 2000). These strengths seem to have