Stepfamilies

Wilkes and Fromme (2002) investigated the stability over time of themes in the experiences of biological parents, stepparents, and adolescents in stepfamilies. Twelve adolescents, ten stepparents, and nine biological parents from ten stepfamilies that participated, completed follow-up questionnaires that sought to determine if the themes found in the earlier study were still present in their stepfamilies four years later. The results indicated areas that remained stable over time and areas of positive change and adjustment. The results also suggested the need for further research about the specific factors that shape adjustment to stepfamilies. The initial study consisted of 37 participants from 12 families. Of those 37 participants involved in the initial study, 31 completed follow-up questionnaires. Of the 12 families involved in the follow-up study, the adolescents consisted of six females and six males. All of the adolescents were Caucasian. The average age was 16.6 years. All of the children were the biological child of one of the parents living in the home. Four were from stepfather families, two were from stepmother families and six were from blended families. Of the stepparents involved in the present study, there was one Hispanic stepfather and the rest were Caucasian, three of the stepparents had never been married before, and six of the stepparents were male and four were female, with an average age of 41.2 years. Among the biological parents, four were female and five were male. All of the biological parents were Caucasian, with an average age of 43.6 years. Prior to the current marriages, eight of the biological parents had been married in the past. Assessment procedures included three questionnaires: one for the adolescents, one for the stepparents, and one for the biological parents, plus second versions with modifications made to render the wording appropriate for members of the stepfamilies that had been separated. The statements related to the core themes identified in the initial study. The questionnaires in Wilkes and Fromme’s (2002) follow-up study asked each participant to rate their level of agreement with 32 to 34 statements on a five-point Likert scale. Based on the ratings participants gave to statements, averages were calculated to determine the level of agreement or disagreement with each statement. One of the major overarching themes found in the initial and follow-up studies was that adolescents were continuing to find ways to cope with the losses in the stepfamily formation process. These losses included undergoing changes in relationships, adapting to different family traditions, experiencing less power in the stepfamily, and having a sense that their family had changed very quickly.
‘Therapists’ perceptions of bioparent-child relationships in stepfamilies: What hurts What helps’- Cartwright, C. (2003).
Stepfamily relationship research has focused on step relationships with particular emphasis on stepparent-stepchild relationships, despite increasing evidence that residential bioparent-child relationships can be negatively impacted through remarriage and stepfamily living. In a project by Cartwright (2003), nine stepfamily therapists were