Many children spend part of their childhood living in a step-family household. Recent Australian statistics suggest that around one in ten couple families contain resident step-children (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2007). In Wave 3 of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, 13% of households had either residential or non-residential step-children, or both (Qu & Weston, 2005). In the United States, approximately 9% of married couple households, and 11.5% of cohabiting households contain resident step-children (Teachman & Tedrow, 2008). Step-family data is not collected in the New Zealand census; however, results from the longitudinal Christchurch Health and Development Study indicated that 18.6% (or around 1 in 6) of the 1,265 survey participants had lived in a step-family between the ages of 6 and 16 years (Nicholson, Fergusson, & Horwood, 1999). 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 (Bray, 1999; Coleman, Ganong, & Fine, 2000; Hetherington & Kelly, 2002) and, compared to sole-parent families, have increased risk of developing problems in the areas of educational achievement, leaving home early and beginning sexual activity earlier (Rodgers & Pryor, 1998). Hetherington and Kelly (2002) and Bray (1999) concluded from their longitudinal studies that the risk of children and adolescents developing clinically significant emotional and behavioural problems is increased by around 25% by divorce and remarriage. On the other hand, many children in step-families fare adequately or well (Amato, 2000; Coleman et al., 2000), and established step-families can provide good environments for child development (Buchanan, Maccoby, & Dornbusch, 1996; Hetherington, Henderson, & Reiss, 1999). The transition from a sole-parent family to a step-family involves a reorganisation of family roles and rules, and the development of step-relationships (Hetherington, 1999; Papernow, 2006). Children’s negative responses to the changed family situation and conflict around management and care of step-children pose the greatest challenge for parents and step-family couples (Bray & Kelly, 1998; Hobart, 1991; O’Connor & Insabella, 1999; Saint-Jacques, 1995). This current study focused on the relationship that is often viewed as most central to adjustment in stepfamilies—the relationship between the step-parent and step-child (Coleman et al., 2000; Crosbie-Burnett, 1984). The quality of this relationship impacts child and family wellbeing and marital quality (Bray & Berger, 1993; Fine, Coleman, & Ganong, 1997; Fine & Kurdek, 1994; Nadler, 1988). In a recent New Zealand study of 90 step-families, a positive association was found between the quality of children’s relationship with step-parents and children’s self-concepts (Pryor, 2005). Children’s feelings of closeness to step-parents, and security in this relationship, were major predictors of children’s perceptions of their own strengths.
|Organisatie||The University of Auckland|