The development of stepfamilies: An examination of change within the first two years
The purpose of the present study was to examine selected aspects of the initial process of readjustm.ent in reconstituted families. The process was assessed by measuring family interaction as a function of length of time since remarriage. Aspects of family functioning included were the family environment factors of cohesion, expressiveness, control, organization, conflict and problems; the role of the stepfather in the family including participation in discipline of the children and family decision making; and satisfaction with family functioning. Specifically it was hypothesized that cohesion, expressiveness, the more integrated role of the stepfather and satisfaction with family functioning would be positively related to length of time in the remarriage and that conflict, problems, control and organization would be negatively related to length of time in the remarriage. Fifty-three middle-class, white families participated in a personal interview and completed an extensive questionnaire. The families involved were characterized by a marriage between previously divorced persons (one or both spouses) who had at least one child from a previous marriage residing with them. A cross-sectional comparison was done and at the time of the assessment the stepfamilies had been reconstituted 1-6 months, 7-12 months or 13-24 months. One-way multivariate analysis of covariance, done separately for males and females, was used to compare the three stepfamily groups. Results indicated that satisfaction and unity decreased and conflict and problems increased over time. It was found that females were significantly less satisfied as the length of time in the remarriage increased. The trends were consistently in the opposite direction from the stated hypotheses. In addition to the hypotheses tested, correlates of satisfaction were examined for their implications for program development.