In their own words: An exploration of adult stepchild-stepfather relationships and their development over time
In the last two decades the number of stepfamilies in North American society has increased significantly. Currently the majority of research examining stepfamilies focuses on the step relationships in families with young children using data collected shortly after the family was created. As a result, relatively little is known about the development of relationships between adult stepchildren and their stepparents. This thesis is an investigation of change in stepfather-stepchild relationships and the influences that affect this change over time. To achieve this goal nine in depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with adult stepchildren. Although the nature of participant's relationship with their stepfather varied greatly, respondents identified that the step relationships did change over time. Participants commonly cited feeling as though they lacked closeness initially with their stepfather. This feeling diminished over time and participants utilized reflections of their experiences with their stepfather to communicate the nature of the relationship that they currently share. Participants identified four themes that they felt impacted the relationship that they had developed with their stepfather. They were: (1) marriage, (2) family status vs. family membership, (3) language as elements influencing how they perceived their stepfather, and, (4) time. Participants revealed feeling that the passing of time contributed to their relationship evolving through stages that impacted the relationship that they now share. Overall this study suggests that designing research measures to approach step relationships as important or close relationships rather than family type relationship holds much promise for further understanding the dynamics of this complex and fascinating family form. Furthermore this inquiry emphasizes the importance of developing new methods of studying stepfamilies that rely on the perspectives of individual members in order to capture the unique experiences and relationships that may have been previously overlooked.