Stepparent Role And Adjustment
There is evidence that the stepparent role and the extent to which the role is clear are related to the adjustment of members of stepfamilies. In terms of the nature of the stepparent role, children's adjustment is facilitated when stepparents, at least initially, do not take an active role in discipline. James H. Bray (1999) found that stepparent-stepchild relations and child adjustment were most positive when stepfathers did not actively discipline their stepchildren, but rather supported the disciplinary practices of the child's biological parent. However, over time, stepparents may assume a more active and a more effective parenting role. In Bray's study, after two and one-half years in the stepfamily, stepparents were able to play key parental roles and authoritative parenting behaviors were related to positive child adjustment.
With respect to clarity regarding the stepparent role, there is evidence that greater stepparent role clarity is associated with some dimensions of adjustment. For example, Kurdek and Fine (1991) found that high levels of stepparent role clarity were related to mothers' reports of family/marital/personal life satisfaction and stepfathers' reports of parenting satisfaction. This may indicate that parenting is a more vulnerable and less comfortable area than personal life satisfaction for step-fathers, and the reverse may be true for mothers. Similarly, Fine, Kurdek, and Lorraine Hennigen (1992) found that adolescents who were not clear about their stepmother's role tended to see themselves as low in self-competence. Finally, Fine, Coleman, and Ganong (1998) extended these earlier findings by showing that, when the parent and stepparent were more confident in their views about how the stepparent should behave, their marital, (step)parent-(step)child, and family relationships were more satisfying. How confident stepchildren were about how the stepparent should behave was not related to how satisfied they were with their family relationships or to their individual adjustment.
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