Stepfamily Life

Annotated Bibliography

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Aquilino, W. S. (2006). The noncustodial father-child relationship from adolescence into young adulthood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68, 929-946.

A subsample of 359 adult children (ages 18-24) from waves 1 and 2 of the National Survey of Families and Household were used to examine the relationship between adult children and noncustodial fathers. Analyses revealed that remarried (as opposed to single) fathers at Wave 1 had higher levels of contact with their adult children. Adult children whose mothers remarried (and thus gained a stepfather) between Waves 1 and 2 reported higher levels of contact with their noncustodial fathers and were more likely to view him as a source of potential support.

Brown, O., & Robinson, J. (2012). Resilience in remarried families. South African Journal of Psychology, 42, 114-126.

Qualitative and quantitative data were from a convenience sample of 19 parents and 16 adolescents in remarried families and examined the elements of McCubbin's resilience model of adaptation. Findings were that hardiness, affirming communication, and time together were correlated with higher adaptation for both parents and adolescents. Themes of spirituality, maintenance of boundaries, communication of respect and acceptance, and the importance of bonding and family cohesion emerged as facilitating adaptation.

Cartwright, C. (2010). Preparing to repartner and live in a stepfamily: An exploratory investigation. Journal of Family Studies, 16, 237 -250.

Data were from a convenience sample of 99 stepfamily couples in New Zealand who were asked about their courtship period. Findings were that 34% had repartnered within 6 months of dating and 60% within a year, 89% doing so because of "love" and 50% due to emotional support. Most common concerns were about being a stepparent, children's wellbeing and child management issues, and stepparent-stepchild relationships. Hopes prior to repartnering were mostly about the couple relationship; about 40% had prior lengthy discussions; 25% had spontaneous decision or never decided (it just happened), and much of the discussion had to do with child-related and practical issues; 50% were confident in the decision, and most talked about how to manage it with the children.

Claxton-Oldfield, S., & O'Neil, S. (2007). Perceptions of gay and lesbian stepfamilies. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 46(3/4), 1-8.

Four vignettes depicting four family units (a gay stepfamily, a lesbian stepfamily, a heterosexual stepfamily, and a biological family) were administered to 184 undergraduate students (130 female and 54 male; ages 16-31) to explore perceptions of gay and lesbian stepfamilies. Results were that students perceived lesbian stepfamilies as more satisfied and secure than heterosexual stepfamilies and that all types of stepfamilies (gay, lesbian, and heterosexual) were perceived as being more active than the biological family.

Crohn, H. M. (2010). Communication about sexuality with mothers and stepmothers from the perspective of young adult daughters. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 51, 348-365.

Qualitative data from 19 White, college educated women (19 to 25) were used to explore experiences of communicating with stepmothers about sexuality. Sixteen lived primarily with mothers; three were in split custody arrangements in adolescence. Most women reported stepmothers were supportive and interested in their lives; this helped them to confide in them. Discussing sexual and intimate relationships with stepmothers but not mothers was reported, as stepmothers were less disapproving or worried. Stepmothers often provided guidance when difficult topics were discussed.

Ganong, L. H., Coleman, M., & Rothrauff, T. (2009). Patterns of assistance between adult children and their older parents: Resources, responsibilities, and remarriage. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 26, 161-178.

Data from a random probability sample of 1,025 individuals (524 women and 501 men) with a mean age of 44 years (14% had stepchildren) were used to examine the effects of contextual factors on beliefs regarding intergenerational assistance, such as childcare help for an adult child, transportation for older parents, or daily monitoring of older stepparents. Using response to vignettes about assistance, when an older parent remarries, the new spouse is responsible for assistance before the adult child. Adult children were expected to assist stepfathers more than stepmothers, and expectations to help stepfathers were greater when the bio-mother provided the child with assistance. Expectations of adult children assisting or not assisting older stepparents were tied to beliefs about family obligations.

Goldscheider, F., & Sassler, S. (2006). Creating stepfamilies: Integrating children into the study of union formation. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68, 275-291.

Data from 2,594 respondents (954 men and 1,640 women) in Waves 1 and 2 of the National Survey of Families and Households were used to examine the role children have in forming a stepfamily. Men were five times more likely to enter either a marital or cohabiting union with a partner who has co-resident children than women. Men with resident children were less likely to remain un-partnered, less likely to enter a cohabiting union, and more likely than non-custodial fathers to marry (especially women with children) than women. Employed men and those who grew up with a stepfather were more likely to enter a relationship (including cohabiting) with women who have resident children. For women, those with non-resident children were more likely to experience a break-up of a cohabiting union; women with resident children were more likely to either marry or co-reside with a man with children and less likely to marry a man without children.

Greeff, A. P., & Toit, C. D. (2009). Resilience in remarried families. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 37, 114-126.

Remarried families (n = 38) with at least one child in school were asked about the personal risk and resilience factors inside their families. Positive relationships and support amongst family members were the primary resources that helped them to adapt. Spirituality and religion were reported as primary coping resources outside of the family. For parents and children, family adaptation is positively linked with a sense of control over outcomes in life (rank: 2 parents), activities and routines that help the family to spend time together (rank: 3 children), family communication that is affirming (rank 1 parents and children), and social support in the community, with children uniquely reporting an additional factor of internal and external handling of problems (rank: 3 parents, 2 children). Together, they accounted for 68% of the variance in adjustment.

Kelly, K. P., Ganong, L. H. (2011). "Shifting family boundaries" after the diagnosis of childhood cancer in stepfamilies. Journal of Family Nursing, 17, 105-132.

Secondary analysis of qualitative interviews with 13 individuals in stepfamilies (10 bio-parents, 3 stepparents) revealed that diagnosis resulted in increased coparental contact as they focused on the ill child, and reinforcing the biological boundaries which shifted the stepfamily boundaries. This reinforcing was linked with feelings of jealousy by the stepparent, feelings that only the bio-P could understand, conflict when the SP overstepped boundaries, and exclusion of the SP from treatment plan by bio-Ps and healthcare workers. SP responded by respecting bio-boundaries, stepping back from conflict, and supporting partner. Consequences of bio-boundaries were that bio-P feeling pulled by both families, relationship shutdown and for 1 walking away. Most resulted in stronger families once boundaries were renegotiated.

King, V. (2009). Stepfamily formation: Implications for adolescent ties to mothers, nonresident fathers, and stepfathers. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71, 954-968.

Data from the Add Health Study (1,753 adolescents living with a single mother in Wave 1) were used to examine perceived closeness in three different family structure trajectories (stable single mother, new cohabiting stepfather, new married stepfather). Adolescent's reported their closeness to mothers, nonresident fathers, and married stepfathers at Wave 1 and Wave 2. Closeness to nonresident fathers declined slightly across three all groups and was not affected by the introduction of a stepfather (married or not). The entrance of a cohabiting stepfather lead to a greater decline in closeness to the mother compared to those adolescents whose mothers remained single.

Lambert, A. (2010). Stepparent family membership status. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 51, 428-440.

Using data from 143 participants (18 - 50 years) old who had grown up in stepfamilies, examined the relationship between trust of stepparents and considering a stepparent part of one's family. Currently or having ever resided with a stepparent increased the trust of that stepfathers but not of stepmothers. Number of years knowing a stepparent was not related to their trust of him/her. The majority of participants (63%) considered their stepparent as "family" due to neutral (e.g., "married to my mother") or positive (e.g., "she has always been there for me") reasons. Higher trust increased the likelihood of considering a stepparent a "family" for neutral or positive reasons.

Lee-Flynn, S. C., Pomaki, G., DeLongis, A., Biesanz, J. C., & Puterman, E. (2011). Daily cognitive appraisals, daily affect, and long-term depressive symptoms: The role of self-esteem and self-concept clarity in the stress process. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37, 255-268.

Data were from a convenience sample of 178 adults in stepfamilies selected because these families were assumed to experience higher stress. Findings were that those with higher self-esteem had lower daily negative cognitive appraisals and less daily negative affect. When self-concept clarity was lower, lower self-esteem was linked with more depressive symptoms.

Michaels, M. L. (2006). Factors that contribute to stepfamily success: A qualitative analysis. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 44(3/4), 53-66.

Interview data from 7 couples (1 or both in a current remarriage; all Caucasian; length of current marriage was 6-19 years) were used to explore contributing factors of stepfamily success. Analysis revealed two major themes: "informed commitment" characterized by determination to succeed, realistic expectations about marriage, proactive approaches to family life and family time, and seeking guidance from professional and supportive persons; and "sense of family" characterized by recognizing new family members, rapidly accepting new family members, respect of new family members, acceptance of new family members by extended family, and rapidly creating new family traditions.

Nelms, B. C. (2005). Giving children a great gift: Family traditions. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 19, 345-346.

Editorial comments on the need for established family traditions for stepfamilies and families experiencing the loss of a family member. The author suggests that stepfamilies may be more apt to move from familial resistance to accommodation through the establishment of agreed upon and ritualized family traditions.

Nomaguchi, K. M. (2008). Gender, family structure, and adolescents' primary confidants. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70, 1213-1227.

Primary confidants, risk-taking behaviors, gender, and family structure were examined in data from the 1997 and 2000 waves of NLSY97 (n = 4,190). Boys from M-SF families were less likely to report romantic friends over mothers as confidants and less likely to report "no one", whereas girls were more likely to report romantic partners as primary confidants and were more likely to report "no one." Overall, adolescents from M-SF families failed to differ dramatically from those from two-bio-parent families.

Schrodt, P. (2006). Development and validation of the Stepfamily Life Index. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 23, 427-444.

Data collected from 251 adult and adolescent stepchildren (96 males;155 females; ages 13-47) in Study 1 and 398 adult and adolescent stepchildren (239 males; 347 females; ages 13-55) in Study 2 were used to develop a measure of stepfamily functioning. Results from a factor analysis revealed 5 factors: dissention, involvement, avoidance, flexibility, and expressiveness (measured with 65 items, and good reliability except for flexibility. Results also revealed that 63.2 % of the shared variance in stepfamily satisfaction could be predicted by dissention, involvement, avoidance, and expressiveness.

Stewart, S. D. (2005). Boundary ambiguity in stepfamilies. Journal of Family Issues, 26, 1002-1029.

Data from Wave 1 of the National Survey of Family and Households of 3,357 married and cohabiting couples (1,044 in stepfamilies, 2,313 in first marriages) were used to examine boundary ambiguity and its relationship to marital stability and quality. Results showed that couples with stepchildren reported approximately 3 times more boundary ambiguity than couples with biological children. Couples with nonresident stepchildren reported 44 times more boundary ambiguity than couples with biological children. Women reporting greater levels of boundary ambiguity also reported more disagreements with their spouse and being more likely to separate from him than women reporting no boundary ambiguity.

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