Clarity Of The Stepparent Role
There is considerable evidence that the parenting role of the stepparent is ambiguous or unclear (Coleman, Ganong, and Fine 2000). The lack of clarity of the stepparent role is reflected in the notion that there are several plausible ways that the role of the stepparent can be filled. The following are some, but not all, of these possible ways to fill the stepparent role: to act "just like" a parent to the stepchild; to act like a supportive friend to the stepchild; to support the disciplinary policies of the biological parent without independently establishing and enforcing rules of one's own; and to not become involved in the stepchild's life. In the absence of clear social norms, stepparents may not know which of these ways, or others, is the most desirable way for them to fill the stepparent role. In fact, although stepparents understandably experience the most ambiguity about the role of the stepparent (Fine, Coleman, and Ganong 1998), biological parents and stepchildren also may not be sure how they think the stepparent should act. Further, as noted earlier, there often are also disagreements within stepfamilies about the appropriate stepparent role, as parents and stepparents believe that the stepparent should serve as a parenting figure, whereas stepchildren are more likely to believe that the stepparent should try to be a "friend" to them (Fine, Coleman, and Ganong 1998).
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