Home Volume 5 Pastors’ Daughters: Boundary Ambiguity or the Fishbowl Effect?

Pastors’ Daughters: Boundary Ambiguity or the Fishbowl Effect?


Bernadette Samau and Penelope Schoeffel


Many studies have shown that the family of clergy experience specific challenges, particularly in relation to the maintenance of boundaries between their private lives and the individual needs of each member of a clergy family, and the public pastoral roles of a church minister. In this paper we review this literature and ask a question: do the challenges experienced among clergy families in Western societies resonate with those of clergy families in Sāmoa? To explore this question we present the results of indepth interviews with nine Sāmoan women who grew up as daughters of pastors of different denominations serving in both Sāmoan villages and in Sāmoan communities overseas. We conclude that culture plays a particularly significant role with regard to public expectations of the daughters of clergy in Sāmoan communities. Because the distinction between public and private life is less well defined in Sāmoan culture, the concept of boundary ambiguity has limited heuristic value in understanding the situation of daughters and families of village‐based clergy although it may be more relevant to the circumstances of Sāmoan clergy families overseas.

Keywords: Sāmoa, clergy, church communities, family, boundary ambiguity, gender relations.

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