The role of rituals in the management of the dialectical tension of “old” and “new” in blended families

Dawn O. Braithwaite, Leslie A. Baxter, Anneliese M. Harper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

77 Scopus citations


In this study we examined how members of step- or blended families interact and develop their families by examining their successful and unsuccessful ritual enactments. Blended families provide a fertile context in which to study ritual adaptiveness and the possible relationship between successful enactment of rituals and their adaptability. Data were in-depth interviews with 53 members of blended, families concerning their successful and unsuccessful ritual enactments. A qualitative/interpretive analysis indicated that blended families face an ongoing dialectical opposition between the “old family” and the “new family.” Blended family rituals are important communicative practices that enable blended family members to embrace their new family while still valuing what was important in the old family environment. The adaptive nature of rituals demonstrated the process of adjusting to the loss of the old family and to living in the new, blended family. Rituals that were successfully enacted were characterized by an ability to pay homage to both old and new families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-120
Number of pages20
JournalCommunication Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1998


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication

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