Stepparenting

Annotated Bibliography

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Beck, A. N., Cooper, C. E., McLanahan, S., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2010). Partnership transitions and maternal parenting. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, 219-233.

Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study (N=4,898), the relationship between family structure transitions from birth to age 5 and maternal parenting quality were examined. Children whose mothers were married from birth experienced the fewest transitions. Almost 50% of those with unmarried mothers had at least 3 maternal partnership changes. More transitions were linked with more maternal stress and frequent harsh parenting. This link was stronger when transitions were recent and the changes were coresident in nature rather than partnership transitions.

Berger, L. M., Carlson, M. J., Bzostek, S. H., & Osborne, C. (2008). Parenting practices of resident fathers: The role of marital and biological ties. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70, 625-639.

Used data (n=2098) from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS) to assess differences in parenting practices across types of resident fathers (bio-father who is married to mother, bio-father cohabiting with mother, social father married to mother, and social father cohabiting with mother). Results indicate that mothers report social fathers show higher cooperative parenting than bio-fathers. Bio-fathers are more likely to be trusted mothers to care for the child in her absence. Married bio-fathers report less child engagement and more cooperative parenting than cohabiting bio-fathers, but have less cooperative parenting than cohabiting social fathers. Married social fathers have more engagement, cooperative parenting, shared parenting responsibility, and maternal trust than cohabiting social fathers and more shared responsibility and cooperative parenting than cohabiting bio-fathers. Married social and bio-fathers tend to have higher quality parenting than their cohabiting peers.

Cabrera, N. J., Ryan, R. M., Mitchell, S. J., Shannon, J. D., & Tamis-LeMonda, C. S. (2008). Low-income, nonresident father involvement with their toddlers: Variation by fathers' race and ethnicity. Journal of Family Psychology, 22, 643-647.

Early Head Start Research and Evaluation project data (n = 883) was used to examine nonresident father involvement differences by race and ethnicity. White fathers reported lower involvement than African American or Latinos. Only the presence of a resident romantic partner, which was more common for White mothers, was negatively associated with father involvement. Having a boyfriend, which was more likely for African American and Latino mothers, was positively related to father involvement.

Cartwright, C. (2010). An exploratory investigation of parenting practices in stepfamilies. New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 39, 57-64.

Using data from a convenience sample of 99 stepfamily couples in New Zealand, findings were that that 41% did not talk about the care of children early on; others indicated that they did so when issues arose. Discipline of children was handled by bio-parents in 77% of families, and about 3/4 said it was shared with stepparent; parents continued to spent time with kids alone, provided emotional support or assistance with problems, and took on childcare routines and extracurricular activities. Stepparents were much less involved. Commonly there were issues around discipline and the stepparent-stepchild role.

Christian, A. (2005). Contesting the myth of the "wicked stepmother:" Narrative analysis of an online stepfamily support group. Western Journal of Communication, 69, 27-47.

Using online narratives of members of an Internet-based blended family support group, two themes emerged for stepmothers contesting the stigmatized "wicked stepmother" role. Analysis revealed an initial theme of the biological mother as "incompetent, mentally unstable, or wicked" and analysis of stepmothers' self-perceptions indicated a theme related to "martyrdom" or being "good" overall.

Claxton-Oldfield, S., O'Neill, S., Thompson, C., & Gallant, B. (2005). Multiple stereotypes of stepfathers. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 44(1/2), 165-177.

Data from 3 separate studies of 116 undergraduates, 34 undergraduates, and 29 undergraduates (Studies 1, 2, and 3, respectively) were used to examine students' stereotypes of stepfathers. Study 1 showed 77 traits (45 negative, 32 positive) proposed. Study 2 categorized 9 negative (exploiting, obnoxious, patronizing, unloving, intolerant, manipulative, careless, controlling, and strange) and 6 positive stereotypes (supportive, decent, unselfish, encouraging, concerned, resourceful). Study 3 showed that the more positive a stereotype was rated, the more typical it was found to be of stepfathers.

Cooper, C. E., McLanahan, S. S., Meadows, S. O., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2009). Family structure transitions and parenting stress. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71, 558-574.

Data from 4,176 children in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study were used to examine the relationship between transitions in family structure and maternal stress. Between Waves 1 and 4, 50% experienced family structure transitions. Mothers' parenting stress was greater for the divorced or dissolved cohabitations with the child's bio-father or experienced two or more transitions. Moving in with a bio-father lead to less maternal parenting stress than those living stably alone; moving in with a social father was linked to greater maternal stress than moving in with a bio-father. The links between number and type of transitions and maternal stress were partially explained by socioeconomic, social, and health resources pre- and post-transition. Highly educated mothers experienced less parenting stress as a result of transitions.

Craig, E. A., & Johnson, A. J. (2011). Role strain and online social support for childless stepmothers. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 28, 868-887.

Content analysis of 62 conversations among childless stepmothers in an online support group found that notable strains in boundary ambiguity (22%), resources (17%), and support or lack thereof (12%). No differences in strains were found between custodial and noncustodial stepmothers. Most frequent support included emotional support (47%), information support/advise (30%), and esteem support (9%). Associations between strains and support were also examined.

Doodson, L., & Morley, D. (2006). Understanding the roles of non-residential stepmothers. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 45(3/4), 109-126.

Used interviews from 8 stepmothers with at least one stepchild living with them part-time to assess how they develop their roles as stepmothers in their new stepfamilies. When defining their family, most excluded their stepchildren, because they were not related. They commonly felt unnatural in their roles, due to their lack of control and influence over their stepchildren, making the situation harder than they had planned. They gained comfort and confidence as SM when they became mothers themselves; even though they felt a weaker bond with their stepchildren, they loved them, just in different from their own children. They felt uncomfortable being called mother by stepchildren and expressed difficulty in defining their relationship with their stepchildren. This tension affected their marital quality-contentions usually arose over disciplining the children and relationships with previous spouses. Most viewed their stepmother role as negative, citing unrealistic expectations as a cause, and advised other stepmothers to clearly define boundaries early on to help with the confusion and tension in their new roles.

Ganiban, J. M., Ulbricht, J.,Saudino, K. J., Reiss, D., & Neiderhiser, J. M. (2011). Understanding child-based effects on parenting: Temperament as a moderator of genetic and environmental contributions to parenting. Developmental Psychology, 47, 676-692.

Using data from 720 sibling pairs in the Nonshared Environment Study, examined the influence of temperament on the links between genetic/nongenetic environment and parenting warmth and negativity of fathers and mothers. Sibling pairs include twins (identical and fraternal), full-sibs, half-sibs, and stepsibs. Related to half-sib and stepsib enviornments, more father warmth was evident when children were highly active and sociable, but less when children were shy.

Goldscheider, F., & Kaufman, G. (2006). Willingness to stepparent: Attitudes about partners who already have children. Journal of Family Issues, 27, 1415-1436.

A subsample of 2,131 mean and 1,258 women from Wave 1 of the National Survey of Families and Households were used to investigate an individual's willingness to stepparent. Results revealed that overall, increased education (although for both, in women more so than men), being a minority, and not wanting any (more) children decreases one's willingness to marry someone with children, while having a favorable attitude toward nontraditional family forms and feeling more strongly that marriage is a lifelong commitment (women only) increases one's willingness. Both greater religiosity and being formerly married increased one's willingness to marry someone who has been previously married.

Henry, P. J., & McCue, J. (2009). The experience of nonresidential stepmothers. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 50, 185-205.

Data from interviews with 10 nonresident Australian stepmothers results in two themes. Perceived control around parenting/visitation and financial matters lead to feelings of helplessness, anger, resentment. Psychological and physical wellbeing appears to be negatively affected a result of these feelings of powerlessness and anger, including the ways legal policies were applied to nonresident parents, and this negatively affected their marital relationship.

Johnson, A. J., Wright, K. B., Craig, E. A., Gilchrist, E. S., Lane, L. T., & Haigh, M. M. (2008). A model for predicting stress levels and marital satisfaction for stepmothers utilizing a stress and coping approach. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 25, 119-142.

Using 177 stepmothers from an internet support group, assessed multiple characteristics. Having bio-children was linked with smaller support network size, more support network satisfaction, and to an increase in household chores. Division of household labor was found to be fairly even distributed among spouses in resident and nonresident stepmother families, whereas full resident and nonresident stepmothers reported more responsibility than their husbands. Resident mothers and those with bio-children had the greatest discrepancy in childcare responsibilities, but this was not linked with perceived stress, which was linked with less social support network satisfaction, marital satisfaction, and role clarity.

Moore, S., & Cartwright, C. (2005). Adolescents' and young adults' expectations of parental responsibilities in stepfamilies. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 43, 109-127.

Content analysis from 65 undergraduates (ages 17 to 25; approximately 1/5 had lived within a stepfamily) at a university in New Zealand examined the expectations of parental responsibilities in a hypothetical situation. Approximately 20% viewed mother and stepfather disciplinary responsibilities equally; more than 1/3 viewed discipline the sole responsibility of the bio-parent (mother); 66% viewed the stepfather role as minor in the absence of a bio-parent (mother) or after establishing a relationship with the child; 71% reported that mothers should intervene during child/stepfather conflict as mediator or in support of both, and 11% stated the mother should side with the child; 54%, 42%, and 35% of the participants respectively stated that love and or support, a continuation of the relationship dynamics prior to remarriage, and more time and attention from the mother were what a child most likely wanted after the remarriage; only 3% stated that priority from the mother following remarriage should be given to the husband, 50% expected priority to the children only, and 50% to both children and husband equally

O'Connor, A., & Boag, S. (2010).Do stepparents experience more parental antagonism than biological parents? A test of evolutionary and socialization perspectives. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 51, 508-525.

Using an Australian sample (117: 44 stepparents, 73 bio-parents), examined the relationship between biological relatedness to children and parents' investment, resentment, and jealousy. The sample was 81% female and had an above average family income. Stepparents had lower socio-emotional investment, higher resentment, and higher jealousy than parents after controlling for gender, age of children, age of participant, length of time with current partner, number of nights child spends in the home, marital status, and overall number of children.

Perez, J. C., & Torrens, A. J. (2009). The myth of motherhood and the role of stepmothers: An outlook of women who have delayed their motherhood. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 50, 206-219.

Qualitative data from interviews of 17 stepmother in Chile were used to examine the roles of mother and stepmother. Findings were that mothering was a "central project of life" and within the context of a stable relationship, but perceived as different from stepmothering, distinguishing between "own" and "other" children where the latter are the responsibility of their bio-parents. The affective bond with "other" is limited.

Schrodt, P. (2006). The Stepparent Relationship Index: Development, validation, and association with stepchildren's perceptions of stepparent communication competence and closeness. Personal Relations, 13, 167-182.

Data from 522 young adult stepchildren (18-24 years, 83% white, 90% with divorced parents; mean length of remarriage = 7.89 years) from 4 different states completed an inventory on key dimension of the stepparent-stepchild relationships and perceptions of communication competence and closeness. Results were a multidimensional measure (positive regard, (step)parent authority, and affective certainty) with acceptable reliability estimates (alpha = .97, .69, .77, respectively).

Schrodt, P., Baxter, L. A., McBride, M. C., Braithwaite, D. O., & Fine, M. A. (2006). The divorce decree, communication, and the structuration of coparenting relationships in stepfamilies. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 23, 741-759.

Twenty-one adults coparenting children in stepfamilies kept diaries for 2 weeks and were interviewed about communication about the divorce decree. For some, the decree was seen a legal contract: coparenting actions were matters of the law, and rights and responsibilities, especially concerning child access and financial issues, were dictated fully by the decree. Some saw the decree as enabling family functioning by providing a depersonalized and regulated set of rules, limiting, preventing, or resolving conflicts, and providing clarity on parenting responsibilities, whereas others saw it as constraining because it lacked flexibility and was used as a weapon against nonresident parents. Others saw the decree as a guide and adversarial tool rather than a rigid contract: parenting did not rely on following the letter of the decree, but on bargaining and good faith efforts toward fairness in the interest of the child. Parents saw this, too, as an enablement, whereas others saw it as a constraint an opportunity for manipulation.

Schrodt, P., & Braithwaite, D. O. (2011). Coparental communication, relational satisfaction, and mental health in stepfamilies. Personal Relationships, 18, 352-369.

Using data from 127 stepparent/parent dyads, examined the effects of coparental communication on martial satisfaction and mental health. Findings were that when stepparent and parent coparental communication was positive, they also reported more satisfaction and better mental health themselves but not their partners. Regarding parents, their satisfaction mediated the effect of communication on their mental health; for stepparents, the findings were similar, and parent's coparenting communications also had a direct effect on stepparents' mental health.

Stewart, S. D. (2005). How the birth of a child affects involvement with stepchildren. Journal of Marriage and

Family, 67, 461-473. Data were from the National Survey of Families and Households Waves 1 (1987-1988) and 2 (1992-1994) on 1,905 main respondents in first-married, remarried, or cohabiting unions to examine parent involvement with children. Children in stepfamilies experienced less parental involvement than children in intact families. Parents with only stepchildren showed a decline in parental involvement nearly twice as great as their step- and bio-children and bio-children-only counterparts. For parents who experience an additional birth, parental involvement decline with their stepchildren only was 3 times as great as those with step- and bio-children and 12 times as great as their bio-children-only counterparts.

Weaver, S. E., Coleman, M. (2005). A mothering but not a mother role: A grounded theory study of the nonresidential stepmother role. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22, 477-497.

Using interviews from 11 women (White, lower- to upper-middle class, ranging in ages from 27 to 49, average length of being a stepmother = 9.2 years) developed a role construction process theory of nonresident stepmothers. Three roles themes emerged. Mothering, but not being a mother roles consisted of involving friendship, responsibility and caring, providing emotional support, and being a mentor. Other-focused roles included being a liaison between husbands and the children's bio-mother and being a facilitator of the father-child relationship. Outsider roles included being present during child visits, but not actively participating during father-child interactions and perceiving their relationship with stepchildren as a role by not being a pivotal player in their stepchild's life.

Weaver, S. E., & Coleman, M. (2010). Caught in the middle: Mothers in stepfamilies. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 27, 305-326.

Using qualitative data from 24 mothers in stepfamilies and grounded theory approach, findings were that the key role of mothers in stepfamilies was to serve as a link between the stepfather and her children, and in conflicts, she sided with her children and "protected" them via defending, gatekeeping, mediating and interpreting. These behaviors were affected by her expectations for (e.g., ideal family, partner's roles) and perceptions of the family, her partner's experiences (e.g., none with children, lack of understanding of "her children"), passage of time and children's stage, and role conflicts.

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