Drawing on qualitative in-depth interviews with 46 stepfathers, we explore how stepfathers characterize the biological father and their relations with him. We focus specifically on instances in which stepfathers directly and indirectly act like a father ally; that is, they presumably help the father sustain or improve his relationship with his child. Our analysis generates theoretical insights about father ally properties (development, purpose, awareness level, reciprocity routines, building trust/respect, and social capital) while discussing conditions that either facilitate (male bonding, avoiding the threshold of discomfort, stepfather's romantic relationship security, father's perceived worthiness, and having biological children) or could foster (mother as gatekeeper/mediator, quality of stepfather-child relationship) its expression. We consider how stepfathers conceptualize and display a cooperative interactive style reflecting a less traditional masculine self. Our study illustrates some of the interpersonal complexities associated with stepfamily fatherhood in the United States. (Author abstract)
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