Broader Social Issues

Annotated Bibliography

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Gately, N. J., Pike, L. T., & Murphy, P. T. (2006). An exploration of the impact of the family court process on "invisible" stepparents. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 44(3/4), 31-52.

A phenomenological approach using semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of 8 females and 4 males examined the emotional experience of individuals whose partners had undergone litigation procedures in family court. Content analysis revealed one major theme, "adversarial process" which consisted of two sub-themes, "invisibility" and "exclusion" which often led individuals to "perceptions of inequity" and feelings of "resentment, anger, and guilt."

McRee, N. (2008). Child abuse in blended households: Reports from runaway and homeless youth. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32, 449-453.

A sample of youth (n = 40,000, 56% were female) who sought services from runaway and homeless youth shelters was compiled by the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect. Blended households (17% with stepfather, 6.8% with a cohabiting male, and 6% with a stepmother or a cohabiting female had a greater than expected risk of child abuse- 21.5% more cases of sexual abuse and 18.8% more cases of physical abuse than expected by chance. Looking specifically at blended families (n=11,843) allowed authors to asses the risks of abuse: for sexual abuse, stepparent households represented 3.6% more cases than expected and cohabiting households represented 12.1% fewer cases. For physical abuse, stepparent households represented 0.8% fewer than expected and cohabiting households represented 5% greater than expected cases. However, these results were not statistically different.

Planitz, J. M., & Feeney, J. A. (2009). Are stepsiblings bad, stepmothers wicked, and stepfathers evil? An assessment of Australian stepfamily stereotypes. Journal of Family Studies, 15, 82-97.

Stepfamily life stereotypes, conflict, and specific family members were used from 160 (70 in stepfamilies) in one study and 106 (44 in stepfamilies) in another study. Regardless of family type, less concepts were used to describe stepfamilies, including more negative (lack of or broken ties, negative affection, insecure bonds, being unsupportive, being abnormal, negative communication, boundary issues, difficulties of two families joining, and having problematic outcomes) and mixed classifications, with positive concepts related to new challenges (support, affections, ties, attachment, and images). Most (80%) thought that stereotypes existed even if they disagreed with them. They suggested that stepfamilies are socially acceptable, they have positive outcomes, there is negativity in all families, they have a positive emotional climate, and that different family types are equally well adjusted. Stepfamilies had more destructive conflict, less constructive conflict, and being more avoidant. Problem-solving in conflict, more positive lasting emotions after conflict were linked with two bio- parents. Conflict with stepparents involved more negative lasting emotions and managed conflict less effectively. Stepmother, stepfathers, and stepsiblings were all rated as less caring and less satisfied than their biological peers.

Troilo, J. (2011). Stepfamilies and the law: Legal ambiguities and suggestions for reform. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 52, 610-621.

Review of the literature in the social sciences regarding the legal context and suggestions for reform. Conclusions are that social scientists lack clarity about how best to initiate change but that changes are needed to address give more authority and recognition to the stepparent.

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