The latest material added to the Australian Institute of Family Studies library database is displayed, up to a maximum of 30 items. Where available online, a link to the document is provided. Many items can be borrowed from the Institute's library via the Interlibrary loan system.

See more resources on Stepfamilies in the AIFS library catalogue

Relationships between parents and young teens.

Yu M and Baxter J
Growing Up in Australia, the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children - annual statistical report 2017. Melbourne : Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2018: 35-46
Family relationships remain central to children's lives during early adolescence, despite an increased focus on peers, and remain positive for many adolescents. This chapter explores the quality of adolescents' relationships with parents, in terms of their enjoyment in spending time with their parents, their closeness to their parents, who they talk to when they have a problem, and parents' reports of conflict with the child. It uses data from 'Growing Up in Australia, the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children' (LSAC), comparing young people at 10-11, 12-13, and 14-15 years of age, and comparing findings by child gender, parent gender, socioeconomic status, puberty stage, and for one parent and step-families. The study finds that most young people held positive views about their relationships with their parents, though the quality of this relationship decreased slightly over time and varied slightly by gender. Though relatively low levels of conflict between children and parents were reported by parents, there were clear associations with the young people's reports of relationship quality. Note, this chapter has focused only on parent-child relationships within the household of the child's primary carer. Further research could consider relations with parents in a second household or the impact of family violence.

Take heart : a story for modern stepfamilies.

Shorten C
Melbourne : Melbourne University Press, 2017.
This book shares personal insights into blended families in Australia today, with reference to the research. The author describes her journey from idealising the traditional model of family formation to working at creating a stepfamily with her older children, a new husband, and a new baby.

Children's 'wishes and feelings' in relocation disputes.

Cashmore J and Parkinson P
Child and Family Law Quarterly v. 28 no. 2 2016: 151-173
This article explores the views of children involved in relocation disputes, as part of a longitudinal study on the outcomes of relocation disputes which commenced in mid-2006. The article presents findings from interviews with 20 of the participating families, with 33 children aged from 9-16 years old. Relocations had occurred in 15 of the 20 families. Children were asked about how the felt when the move was first proposed, adjustment, relationship with non-resident parent (their father, in these cases), leaving and making new friends, travel arrangements, and step-parents. Findings from the broader study of 80 families and with the New Zealand companion study are also noted.

Mastery or misery : conflict between separated parents a psychological burden for children.

Francia L and Millear P
Journal of Divorce and Remarriage v. 56 no. 7 2015: 551-568
This article adds to the research on children's experiences of shared care in Australia. Interviews were conducted with 19 young people aged from 16 to 27 years old about their experiences in separated families, focusing on attachment following parental separation and how parental conflict challenged attachment and family relationships over time. The study found it is not parental conflict that creates psychological burden for children, but how parental conflict is handled. Two factors moderated the parent-child relationship: emotional security and responsive parenting.

Addressing the challenges of stepfamily life

Robertson J
Wellington, N.Z. : Families Commission, 2014
This report explores the challenges of stepfamily life in New Zealand and the strategies that families use to address these challenges. Parents and children from 44 stepfamilies were interviewed, regarding the specific stresses or challenges they faced, such as disagreement on discipline or child support stress; whether these challenges co-occur and are resolved over time; the strategies that helped them overcome these challenges and develop successful stepfamily functioning; and the advice that parents and children would offer to newly formed stepfamilies.


Cartwright C
Hayes, Alan, ed. Higgins, Daryl J., ed. Families, policy and the law : selected essays on contemporary issues for Australia. Melbourne, Vic. : Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2014. 9781922038487: 101-107
Step-parents enter the family as an outsider to the parent-child relationship and face significant challenges as they attempt to build relationships with children. This chapter focuses on the role of the step-parent and presents an overview of research and clinical literature that informs our understanding of the role and experiences of being or having a step-parent. Sections include: step-family terminology; structural differences of step-families; stereotypes and ambiguity; the step-parent role and child wellbeing; adaptive roles for step-parents; and the special difficulties of step-mothers.

Stepmother love : ten inspiring stories about the toughest gig in the world

Collins S
Cammeray, NSW : Simon & Schuster, 2014.
This book presents the stories of ten Australian stepmothers, recounting their experiences of building loving long-term relationships with their stepchildren. In particular, each of the women highlight the positive aspects of being a stepmother and offer advice for new stepmothers.

Stepfamilies : a global perspective on research, policy, and practice

Pryor J
New York : Routledge, 2014.
"This new book reviews the most current global research and highlights the challenges, possibilities, and dynamics of stepfamily households. It describes their formation, their experiences, and the factors that help them thrive. International and cultural differences are highlighted throughout along with issues of class, gender, and religion. Nontraditional stepfamilies such as those headed by same-sex families are also explored along with clinical and legal issues. Engagingly written with numerous vignettes and examples, each chapter features objectives, an introduction, boldfaced key terms, summary, list of key terms, discussion questions, exercises, and additional text and web resources."

The effects of co-parenting relationships with ex-spouses on couples in step-families.

Cartwright C and Gibson K
Family Matters no. 92 2013: 18-28
This article explores shared-parenting relationships after a former spouse has repartnered. It presents findings from interviews with 16 couples, recruited from the Couples in Repartnered (Step-) Families study in New Zealand. The couples discussed themes of co-parenting issues with former spouses, stresses on the new stepfamily, and conflict over parenting, flexible arrangements, and child support.

Australian families with children and adolescents

Weston R, Qu L and Baxter J
Melbourne, Vic. : Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2013.
This paper describes the characteristics of Australian families with children and adolescents living at home. It compares census data over the last few decades to examine trends in family form and family life, which in turn reflect social and demographic changes. Information is presented on: family size, couple and one-parent families, age of mothers, intact families, step- and blended families, parental employment, and parent and teenager satisfaction with family relationships. Though families are changing in size and complexity, they appear to continue to function well and adapt to the new challenges they confront in supporting their children along the path to adulthood.

Functioning of families with primary school-age children conceived using anonymous donor sperm.

Kovacs G, Wise S and Finch S
Human Reproduction v. 28 no. 2 2013: 375-384
This article looks at family functioning among families with children conceived using anonymous donor sperm. It analyses findings from the Children and Family Life, a 2003 study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies on how 'non-traditional families' function and thereby influence outcomes for children, which was conducted with 1,661 families with children aged 5-13 years old. This article compares parent psychological adjustment, family functioning, couple relationship, parenting, and parent-child relationship among different family types, including 79 families who had used donor insemination, 987 couple families, 364 single mother families, and 112 step-father families. The findings support previous research showing that families with children conceived using donor sperm function no different to other families.

Shared parenting time in Australia : exploring children's views.

Campo M, Fehlberg B, Millward C and Carson R
Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law v. 34 no. 3 2012: 295-313
This article explores children's own descriptions and views of their shared care arrangements in Australia. It draws on interviews with 22 children conducted as part of a larger, 3-year study with separated parents regarding changes to post-separation parenting and financial arrangements. The children were aged between 10 and 18 years at the time of interview and were aged between four and 12 at the time of their parents' separation. Topics include types of parenting arrangements used, children's involvement in decisions about their parenting arrangements, complaints or concerns regarding step-parents, experiences of shared time, practical difficulties, and parental conflict. Both positive and negative comments are reported.

Couple outcomes in stepfamilies

Bruce V
"Stepfamilies are an increasingly common family structure which has been associated with unique challenges for couples early in their relationships. Previous research has shown that both children and couples within stepfamilies have poorer outcomes than those in first marriage (intact) families and that couples within stepfamilies break-up at much higher rates than couples in first marriage families. The present research consists of two studies that aimed to investigate these differential outcomes for stepfamily couples by examining the longitudinal relationship between a range of both couple and stepfamily specific variables and relationship satisfaction and stability. The broad aims of the research were to compare the relative contribution of general couple factors that have been found to be associated with relationship outcomes for first married couples as opposed to factors that are specific to stepfamilies. Using growth mixture modelling Study 1 compared the trajectory of couple relationship satisfaction of 370 newlywed stepfamily (n = 155) and first married couples (n = 215) over the first four years after marriage. It was hypothesised that there would be more than one class of trajectory and that stepfamily membership would predict membership in a class of trajectory with steeper declines in marital satisfaction and relationship separation over a four year period."--Author abstract.

Fathering across families : how father involvement varies for children when their father has children living elsewhere.

Baxter J
Journal of Family Studies v. 18 no. 2/3 Dec 2012: 187-201
Current patterns of family formation in Australia mean that significant numbers of children are growing up in families include step-parents or step-siblings, or are headed by cohabiting rather than married parents. Further, these families may extend beyond the one household. It is this situation that is explored in this paper, with a focus on how fathering of young resident children differs when fathers have children living in another household. It is expected that when a father has children living in another household, his capacity to be involved with children living within the current couple-family may be somewhat diminished. This paper explores to what extent this is true, by examining father involvement using 'Growing up in Australia: the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children' (LSAC). Multivariate analyses of these data found that on some aspects of father involvement, those fathers with children living elsewhere did have diminished levels of involvement. Partnered fathers with children living elsewhere were less involved in some aspects of care of resident children. Children in these families had less time in the day when they were with their father without their mother also present. Further, fathers who had children living elsewhere spent less time doing child care tasks. These findings were apparent in multivariate analyses, which also took account of a wide range of family, parental and child characteristics.

Families with futures : family studies into the 21st century

Karraker M and Grochowski J
London : Routledge, c2012.
"[This book] provides a ... contemporary look at the discipline's theories, methods, essential topics, and career opportunities. Featuring strong coverage of theories and methods, readers explore family concepts and processes through a positive prism. Concepts are brought to life through ... examples from everyday family life and cutting-edge scholarship."

Young adult stepchildren's experiences of relationship with stepmothers

Mansell P
Carlton, Vic. : Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, 2011
This study investigates young adult stepchildren's experiences of their relationship with their stepmothers, in particular to identify the experiences that contribute to or hinder positive stepmother-stepchild relationships. The stepparent-stepchild relationship has a significant impact on stepfamily functioning and child outcomes, so it is important to understand the impact of stepfamily functioning from the perspective of children. Interviews were conducted with 25 adult step-children aged from 18 to 25 from New Zealand, regarding the development of the stepmother relationship over time and their experiences of the relationship.

Predicting married and cohabiting couples' futures from their descriptions of stepfamily life.

Slattery M, Bruce V, Halford W and Nicholson J
Journal of Family Psychology v. 25 no. 4 Aug 2011: 560-569
One theory for the high rate of step-family breakdown is that the role of the presence of non-biological children on the new couple relationship. This article examines the impact of couple and stepfamily factors on couple relationship satisfaction and stability over time. Interviews were conducted with 122 cohabiting or married step-family couples in Australia - early in their relationship and 30 months later - to explore the association between couple bond, family bond, relationship satisfaction, relationship stability, stepfamily complexity, socioeconomic disadvantage, and marital status.

Fathering in Australia among couple families with young children

Baxter J and Smart D
Canberra : Dept. of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, 2011.
This report explores the many ways in which fathers in couple families with young children contribute to family life, through the study of their time investment with children, their supportiveness as partners, their financial contribution, their parenting behaviours and styles, and their perceptions of their own adequacy as fathers. The report draws upon data from 'Growing Up in Australia: the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children' (LSAC), a national study of children and families. This report first reviews the existing literature on fathering - considering how fathering can be conceptualised and how fathering varies across families. It then explores selected aspects of fathering, including fathers' shared time with children, couples' sharing of unpaid work and co-parenting, and the parenting practices and styles of fathers and mothers, as well as variables including fathers' and mothers' employment status, parent marital status, marital quality, fathers' education, family size, fathers' mental health, and children's characteristics.

The role of evolution, bonding, and parenting style in understanding parental differences.

Slatter T
This research demonstrates the influence of parental bonding and parental authority on the parent-child relationship and subsequent child development in both biological and step-families. Differential effects of parental behaviour on child attachment style development were found for biological children and stepchildren. The results provide guidance for intervention and future research.

Do stepparents experience more parental antagonism than biological parents? A test of evolutionary and socialization perspectives.

O'Connor A and Boag S
Journal of Divorce and Remarriage v. 51 no. 8 Nov/Dec 2010: 508-525
This article compares levels of socioemotional investment, jealousy, and resentment in parent-child relationships - for biological parents and for stepparents. In particular, it explores whether evolution or socialisation underlines any differences. A study was undertaken with 117 biological- and step- parents, representative of individuals from Western nations such as Australia and the United States. The article discusses the findings with reference to child abuse in stepfamilies, resentment and jealousy in stepfamilies, evolutionary theory, the influence of socialisation, and the moderating role of gender identification.

Preparing to repartner and live in a stepfamily : an exploratory investigation.

Cartwright C
Journal of Family Studies v. 16 no. 3 Dec 2010: 237-250
Little is known about the courtship period of stepfamily couples. This current study is an exploratory investigation of the preparation couples undertake prior to stepfamily living. Ninety-nine stepfamily adults living in New Zealand completed an online questionnaire about the courtship period. The results suggest that couples are motivated to repartner by needs for an intimate relationship and associated benefits, although economic and resource issues precipitated cohabitation for some. Many participants had awareness of potential stepfamily challenges. However, the majority did not talk to partners about parenting issues, or how to manage the change for children, supporting earlier findings that stepfamily couples avoid communicating about difficult issues. The results also suggest that many children received little preparation or communication about the decision to repartner and live in a stepfamily.

Context, relationship transitions and conflict : explaining outcomes for Australian youth from non-intact families.

Mance P and Yu P
Journal of Population Research v. 27 no. 2 2010: 75-105
As in many other countries, non-traditional family types are increasing in prevalence in Australia. Prior studies consistently find poorer child outcomes associated with non-intact family type. Controlling for family characteristics decreases the negative effect; however, in most cases small but unexplained differences remain apparent. The current study examines differences in the outcomes of young adults from four family types - intact, stepfather, stepmother and never-repartnered lone-parent families - on four measures: educational attainment; being suspended from school; regular smoking; and trouble with police. The research uses information from 2,430 matched parent-youth pairs collected in a unique Australian study, the Youth in Focus Survey. Although between-group variations are described, differences are predominantly due to contextual factors associated with disadvantage, more prevalent in families who separate and repartner, rather than family structure in itself. For lone-parent and stepfather families, the number of family transitions since the youth's birth is also relevant. Parent-youth conflict explained little of the negative association between family structure and youth outcomes above the effect of contextual factors, but operated independently of family structure to affect youth outcomes. Possible reasons for unexplained differences between intact and stepmother families on some measures are discussed.

Relationships with step-parents in the life stories of young adults of divorce.

Cartwright C, Farnsworth V and Mobley V
Family Matters no. 82 2009: 30-37
Many children spend part of their childhood living in a step-family household and in recent years, researchers have concluded that compared to children and adolescents in non-divorced families, those in step-families are at increased risk of developing emotional and behavioural problems. Using data from the Life Stories and Family Transitions (LSFT) Study in New Zealand, the authors examined the participants' accounts of relationships with their step-parents in order to further understand their experiences of relating to step-parents as children and adolescents, and the step-parent practices that were experienced positively or were considered problematic. The results of the study support the importance of step-parents developing relationships with step-children before attempting to take on any type of parenting role.

The experience of nonresidential stepmothers.

Henry P and McCue J
Journal of Divorce and Remarriage v. 50 no. 3 Apr 2009: 185-205
This article explores the perspective of non-residential stepmothers on family law and child rearing issues. It discusses problems stemming from the family law and child support systems, access and visitation, conflict with residential and custodial parents, and discipline and child rearing from the point of view of non-primary caregivers. Based on a small survey in Western Australia, the authors found a recurrent theme of a lack of control, or powerlessness, with many of the participants describing frustration, anger and resentment over their inability to control or influence visitation, discipline, family court proceedings, and child support matters. The authors explore these themes, and note the methodology and research implications of the study.

Are stepsiblings bad, stepmothers wicked, and stepfathers evil? : an assessment of Australian stepfamily stereotypes.

Planitz J and Feeney J
Journal of Family Studies v. 15 no. 1 Apr 2009: 82-97
Prior research has suggested that stepfamilies are perceived (or stereotyped) negatively in relation to intact families. The present studies examined contemporary stereotypes of Australian stepfamilies, using participants from stepfamilies and from biological (intact) families. Participants completed a comprehensive set of measures assessing key aspects of family interaction and family functioning (including lay concepts of stepfamilies and biological families, perceptions of conflict behaviour, semantic differentials, perceived satisfaction), to determine the extent of stereotyping. Quantitative and short-response analyses revealed a persistent negative stereotype of stepfamilies that was shared by members of stepfamilies themselves, and highlighted specific themes that characterise the stereotype. Results are discussed in terms of dominant theoretical perspectives, and implications for practitioners and those in stepfamilies. These studies address the limited literature on stepfamily stereotypes in Australia.

Attachment patterns of young adults in stepfamilies and biological families.

Planitz J, Feeney J and Peterson C
Journal of Family Studies v. 15 no. 1 Apr 2009: 67-81
This research addressed the under-studied question of attachment patterns in stepfamilies. In total, 368 young adults participated in three studies assessing key aspects of attachment in stepfamilies and biological families (categorical attachment, working models, attachment dimensions and attachment figures). Stepfamily participants were less likely than biological family participants to endorse a categorical measure of secure attachment and had more negative mental models of others; however, participants did not differ on other measures of attachment. Participants' satisfaction with their relationship with their biological father mediated the association between family type and mental model of others. The results are discussed in terms of attachment theory, previous research on relationships in stepfamilies and implications for practice. In particular, they emphasise the importance of relationships with parents for the adjustment of offspring in stepfamilies.

The international handbook of stepfamilies : policy and practice in legal, research, and clinical environments

Pryor J
Hoboken, N.J. : John Wiley & Sons, 2008.
The numbers of stepfamilies is increasing in most countries. This book highlights the similarities faced by stepfamilies everywhere, as well as their cultural differences. It brings together research from a wide range of disciplines to explore issues arising from international, demographic and cultural contexts, dynamics within stepfamily households, influences and relationships beyond the household, and clinical and legal issues.

Family influences on childhood behavior and development : evidence-based prevention and treatment approaches

Gullotta T and Blau G
London : Routledge, 2008.

Public & private families : an introduction

Cherlin A
Boston : McGraw Hill, c2008.
"[This] text examines the family through two lenses: the familiar private family in which we live most of our personal lives, and the public family in which we, as adults, deal with broader societal issues such as the care of the elderly, the increase in divorce, and childbearing outside of marriage. The book looks at intimate personal concerns, such as whether to marry, as well as societal concerns, such as governmental policies that affect families. Distinctive chapters - Chapter 9, 'Children and Parents', Chapter 10, 'The Elderly and Their Families', and Chapter 14, 'The Family, the State and Social Policy' - examine issues of great current interest, such as income assistance to poor families, the effects of out-of-home childcare, and the costs of the Social Security and Medicare programs."

Where to from here? Stepfamilies and the future.

Pryor J
Pryor, Jan, ed. International handbook of stepfamilies. Hoboken, NJ : John Wiley & Sons, 2008. 9780470114582: 573-585
Stepfamilies are the fastest-growing type of household structure, comprising a complex and diverse array of relationships. This presents many challenges in different areas, not just in the relationships and functioning of stepfamilies, but also their acceptance in different cultures and their legal rights. This chapter provides a broad overview of the challenges faced by stepfamilies. It summarises the issues raised in previous chapters in this book, and uses this review to discuss the future directions of stepfamilies, their functioning and their rights, research into stepfamilies, and interventions. The discussion addresses communication, routines and rituals as part of family dynamics, and family boundaries and shared family identity as whole family constructs.
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