Sophia Pellar

Turning Conceptions of Family ‘Upside Down’: Non-Familial Families Provide Social Support and Communal Coping as a Form of Social Support in “Stranger Things”

April 5, 2021   /  

Student Name: Sophia Pellar
Major(s): Communication
Minor(s): English
Advisor: Dr. Rob Razzante, Dr. Melissa Weller (second reader)

Most Creative Slideshow Award

The major conclusion I found is that the group of kids in the show Stranger Things act as a family by choice and use communal copping and social support as a way to strengthen their relationships as a group. Aspects of communal coping and social support like shared time, support, sacrifice, and identity are the most used tools by the kids as a way to maintain these strong bonds.

Keywords: Stranger Things, communal coping, social support, time, support, sacrifice, identity, relationships, family

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Sophia will be online to field comments on April 16: 2-4 pm EDT (PST 11am-1pm, Africa/Europe: evening).

40 thoughts on “Turning Conceptions of Family ‘Upside Down’: Non-Familial Families Provide Social Support and Communal Coping as a Form of Social Support in “Stranger Things””

  1. Hi Sophia! This is such an important topic. I’m wondering (not having seen the show) whether the friends also have supportive biological families, or whether those families are more distant, or whether this varies from person to person/family to family. Also, do any of your findings resonate with the children’s literature we read in Strange Journeys?

    1. Hi Professor Eager! Thank you for your question. Yes this is something that is addressed in my actual paper but because I tried to condense information for the PowerPoint I didn’t include it here. The support from the families varies from character to character however, for the most part the parents are present physically but not involved in their children’s lives and unaware as to the challenges they are facing. I definitely see connections to SJICL class, specifically with The Hobbit. The group that they create in order to take bake their mountain is definitely one that resembles voluntary kin. The dwarves, Bilbo, and Gandolf coming together in times of a crisis demonstrates the communal coping and social support that can come with the formation of voluntary kin and how beneficial it can be to achieving goals.

      1. Thanks for this answer and analysis of voluntary kin in The Hobbit! It’s definitely the case that a common feature of children’s literature and/or fairy tale genres is to take the protagonist away from their family (or their family away from them) and thus as a common consequence to forge new communities. I appreciate your insights on this!!

  2. Sophia, after all your creative brainstorming for Walk the Vote, I’m not at all surprised that you won an award for most creative slideshow. Congrats. 🙂

  3. YAY SOPHIA! Congratulations! What an interesting perspective, and it looks like it has revealed a lot of interesting and consequential stuff. I may just have to go and watch Stranger Things now…

  4. Congratulations Sophia!!! Best of luck with your future, Im sure you are going to do amazing things!!!

  5. Very impressive, Sophia. Do you have any data concerning the presence or absence in these “nonfamilial” families of one or more “actual” family members? In other words, does there seem to be a preference to “exclude” actual families members from these groups, so that this “other family” is “fully special”? Or are some “actual family members” often welcomed into the “non family family”?

    1. Thank you for the question grandpa! Upon my research I found no evidence to support voluntary kin going out of their way to exclude members of their biological families in their non-familial families (not to say that can’t happen). My research focused more on need based voluntary kin specifically during times of crisis. Braithwaite has a lot of research on the formation of these non-familial families and often times they form in a specific time and place in someone’s life where they need more outside support that they just aren’t getting from their biological families.

  6. Awesome topic choice, Sophia! I really enjoyed your focus on “found families” that form depending on a person’s experiences, and I agree this is an area that deserve more scholarly attention (it really interests me as well). If you don’t mind my asking, did any of your findings surprise you?

    1. Thank you Jacob! Yes many of my findings surprised me. For example, I found through my research that non-familial families vs. really close friends isn’t as clear a divide as I thought going into my study. Often times lines are blurred between non-familial families and close friends who act as families. They provide a lot of the same benefits and it isn’t always the easiest to see where close friends end and where non-familial families start.

  7. Congratulations on your award, Sophia! Your slideshow is definitely creative and visually demonstrates much of what you wrote about regarding the relationships among characters. Best of luck to you after graduation.

  8. WOW, WOW, WOW Sophia!! I am blown away by your IS and your beautiful presentation! I am so lucky to have you as a part of my Wooster family during these past four years!!

    I feel that the topic of non-familial families is especially relevant right now as many have turned to close friends for support during this past year. This research, while it prioritizes the white idea of found families, also reminds me of the found families of LGBTQ+ ballroom culture in groups like House of Kenzo. Are there any other fields or areas where you think “found families” are relevant?

    1. Thank you for your question Sydney! There are a lot of terms for these types of families and found families can be interchangeable with voluntary kin and non-familial families as well. So by connecting my research to the term found families is spot on Syd! I think there are plenty of other areas where found families are incredibly important like members of foster homes, children who are adopted, and many groups on campus like Posse, BSA, BWO, Bodies of Diversity, First Generation Student Organization, Latinas Unidas, QPOC, QSU, Minorities in Stem, Women in Stem, etc. form their own type of non-familial families. Overall, more vulnerable groups are seen to come together and form these non-familial families as another way of supporting each other when they aren’t receiving it from their own families. This would be a great topic to look into for future studies and another area worth looking at.

    1. Rondo, thank you for your question. This is not a descriptive study, I used the grounded approach (see Galman reading for more information: Galman, Sally Campbell. The Good, the Bad, and the Data: Shane the Lone Ethnographer’s Basic Guide to Qualitative Data Analysis. Routledge, 2016.) to create a textual analysis of specific scenes from the show. I hope this helps to clarify things!

  9. This is such an interesting topic, Sophia! Congratulations on all of your hard work this year!

  10. Congratulations, Sophia! I enjoyed learning about your project back in Junior IS, so it is very cool to see how the project has evolved since then. Great work!

  11. Hey, Sophia! Amazing analysis to such a great show. Congrats on your award!

  12. This is really interesting, Sophia! It’s all explained very well and makes me want to watch the show! Congratulations, and you certainly deserve the award! Would you like to continue this research in any way, possibly with a different series or medium?

    1. Thank you Dante! I’m not sure I would do another I.S. because it is such an intense and long process but I would love to keep exploring the topic with other shows and perhaps do something with that.

  13. This is such a cool topic, Sophia! Thank you for sharing, and congratulations for winning the most creative slideshow award!!

  14. Sophia,
    What an important and appropriate topic you chose for your research!
    As the pandemic threatens to isolate us all as individuals, we must continue to focus on our abilities to find strength through connections and bonding with our non-families, as well as our families, where ever and whenever we can.
    We are so proud of you, and all you have accomplished, not only with this project, but in all you have accomplished throughout your four years at Wooster.
    Congratulations as well on winning the most creative slideshow award!!!!!
    We are truly blessed to have such a loving, thoughtful and insightful daughter!
    All our love,
    Mom and Dad

    1. Thank you mom and dad for your support! Once my I.S. is on openworks you can read through (I mention you both in my acknowledgements. Love you both very much!

  15. This is a very intriguing and note-worthy presentation! The project uses an extensive amount of literature review to back up the findings of the research question where the fundamental topic itself about support from non-familial families is extremely unique. What I found most interesting was how there were the different types of social support and the four main findings as a result of the research. The data collection and methodology was planned out so extremely well in order to put the ideas into a story that it comes as no surprise that this project won an award for being most creative! CONGRATULATIONS Sophia! So entirely proud of you!!!

  16. Congratulations Sophia!! Your presentation is incredibly lovely and I am so proud of the work you have put into it!! The research question itself is very original and I’m so glad you chose that to pursue. I am very interested in the topic and hope there is further studies in the future to look into. Another reason I also enjoy the presentation is the subject matter. It feels incredibly relevant with a contemporary show which makes it more accessible to a variety of audiences. Lastly, the methods the non-familial family uses is also fascinating and relevant. Overall, this was incredible. Congratulations on the presentation AND on most creative slideshow award!! You deserve it!!

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