Order this book
The book is divided into six chapters: (1) Construction (step-) families – continuity or difference?; (2) Being a 'family'; (3) Putting children first?: Adults, children and coupledom; (4) Doing Family': caring, authority and material provision; (5) 'It's just not fair!' The rights and obligations of 'doing family'; (6) Conclusions: difference, morality and democracy in (step-) families.
Ribbens McCarthy, Edwards and Gillies while acknowledging the small number of interviews found a tendency of middle class parents to focus on importance of blood ties in constituting the strongest family bond "biological parenthood as emotionally irreplaceable and non-replicable" (p134). Whereas in working class families, a stronger focus has been placed on the achieved aspects of parenting: "men who are prepared to act as provider and father to children are more significant and pertinent than biological fatherhood," (p134).
While the book provides a strong sense of the variability of expectations and daily lives within step- families, perhaps more case studies would have allowed the reader a better appreciation of the findings through placing them on a contextual and biographical footing. While the accounts were engaging, I constantly wanted to know more about each family context. Does the absent 'biological' parent live nearby or play a strong role in their lives? Is there easy access or difficult negotiations for absent parent visits? How long has each step-family had been together as a unit and has the meaning of their (step- )family changed over time? Do they live in a traditional, rural or close-knit community or in a city, where step families may be more or less visible or viewed more or less intensively? However, perhaps this is their next project. Even without adding this, a more detailed table providing information about the families interviewed would have benefited the reader's comprehension of the research findings, all that we can glean from the existing table is a simple family form breakdown of the parents interviewed. However, these comments should not detract from what is an interesting and relevant book, which examines an important family grouping in contemporary society and raises questions about the current viability of existing sociological theories of the family.
University of Edinburgh