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Family Matters No. 82 - June 2009

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

Claire Cartwright, Virginia Farnsworth and Vicki Mobley

Abstract

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, 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. It seems likely that step-parents would be more successful if they took time to get to know their step-children, demonstrate acceptance of them, give them support and support the parents' authority. This study also suggests the challenges that "take-control" step-parents have ahead of them. It may be desirable to focus particular clinical and research attention on assisting step-parents with an authoritarian style to adapt and cope with the demands of step-parenting.

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, 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. It seems likely that step-parents would be more successful if they took time to get to know their step-children, demonstrate acceptance of them, give them support and support the parents' authority. This study also suggests the challenges that "take-control" step-parents have ahead of them. It may be desirable to focus particular clinical and research attention on assisting step-parents with an authoritarian style to adapt and cope with the demands of step-parenting.

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Suggested citation:

Cartwright, C., Farnsworth, V., & Mobley, V. (2009). Relationships with step-parents in the life stories of young adults of divorceFamily Matters, 82, 30.