Step-fathering: comparing policy and everyday experience in Britain and Sweden

Edwards, Rosalind; Back-Wiklund, Margareta; Bak, Maren and Ribbens McCarthy, Jane (2002). Step-fathering: comparing policy and everyday experience in Britain and Sweden. Sociological Research Online, 7(1)



Step-fathering is becoming increasingly common in contemporary western societies, yet it has received little research attention from either social policy or sociological perspectives. In this article, we draw on our empirical studies of step-families in Britain and Sweden to argue that social context is important in shaping step-fathers' understandings of their position. Policy and legislation in these countries emphasise the importance of ascribed, biological parenthood, marginalising step-parents. There are, however, notable class differences in both our British and Swedish samples concerning whether step-fathers see their relationship to their step-children as the same as biological fathering, supplementary to it, or as disengaged from fathering. The analysis also reveals that policies simultaneously emphasise achieved contemporary involved fathering alongside promoting ascribed biological fatherhood. Such policies contain a contradiction for step-fathers' understandings of their everyday relationships with their step- children.

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