Linking Stepfamily Functioning, Marital Quality, and Steprelationship Quality

AuthorLawrence Ganong,Marilyn Coleman,Caroline Sanner,Ashton Chapman,Luke Russell,Todd Jensen
Date01 October 2019
Published date01 October 2019
L G University of Missouri
T J University of North Carolina
C S University of British Columbia
L R Illinois State University
M C University of Missouri
A C Social Grove, Inc.
Linking Stepfamily Functioning, Marital Quality,
and Steprelationship Quality
Objective: To examine whether marital dynam-
ics within remarried couples (in the form
of perceived quality and condence) or per-
ceptions of stepparent–stepchild relationship
quality were more strongly associated with
stepfamily functioning.
Background: Stepfamilies are common in the
United States, and identifying factors central to
healthy stepfamily functioning is an important
task. Some stepfamily clinicians contend that
steprelationships may be more closely related
to overall stepfamily functioning than remar-
riage quality,although empirical support for this
assertion is limited.
Method: Heterosexual remarried couples
(N=291) responded to online surveys ask-
ing about marital quality, marital condence,
stepparent–stepchild relationship quality, and
stepfamily functioning (i.e., stepfamily cohe-
sion, expressiveness, and harmony). Data were
analyzed using actor–partner interdependence
Department of Human Development and Family Science,
University of Missouri, 314 Genrty Hall, Columbia, MO
65201 (
Key Words: afnity, APIM, marital quality, remarriage,
stepchild, stepfamily, stepparent.
modeling in a structural equation modeling
Results: Marital dynamics were somewhat more
strongly associated with stepfamily functioning
than stepparent–stepchild relationship quality,
although both were positively associated with
stepfamily functioning. Condence in the future
of the marriage had a slightly stronger associa-
tion with stepfamily functioning than did mar-
ital quality. Actor effects were more often sta-
tistically associated with stepfamily functioning
than were partner effects for both stepparents
and biological parents.
Conclusion: Findings validate a family systems
approach to strengthening stepfamily func-
tioning by highlighting the joint and unique
contributions of both marital dynamics and
stepparent–stepchild relationship quality.
Implications: Clinicians and educators work-
ing with stepfamilies should attend to both pro-
moting positive, emotionally close steprelation-
ships and strong marital bonds and condence
in higher order marriages.
Family scientists have long been committed to
identifying characteristics of well-functioning
families. Likewise, family systems theorists
Family Relations 68 (October 2019): 469–483 469

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