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Sibling, Half Sibling, and Stepsibling Relationships in Remarried Families

Edward R. Anderson
Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development
Vol. 64, No. 4, Adolescent Siblings in Stepfamilies: Family Functioning and Adolescent Adjustment (1999), pp. 101-126
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3181541
Page Count: 26
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Sibling, Half Sibling, and Stepsibling Relationships in Remarried Families
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Abstract

This longitudinal study examined family relationships and the adjustment of two adolescent siblings, varying in the degree of biological relatedness, in nonstepfamilies and in stabilized simple and complex stepfamilies. All couples in stepfamilies had been remarried for a minimum of 5 years and an average of 9 years. Families were seen twice, 3 years apart. Family relationships and children's adjustment were assessed using interview and questionnaire measures obtained from mothers, fathers/stepfathers, and the two siblings and from observational measures of family interactions in the home. Family type and gender differences in marital relationships, parent-child relationships, and sibling relationships as well as in adolescent adjustment were examined. The results suggest that, even in these long-established stepfamilies, there are some differences in family relationships and in adolescent adjustment from those in nonstepfamilies. Few differences, however, between nonstepfamilies and simple stepfamilies, in which all children were fully biologically related siblings from the mothers' previous marriage, were found. Results obtained were associated with differences in biological relatedness between family members and with living in a complex stepfamily household in which residential siblings had different relationships to the biological parents. Mothers were higher than fathers in all aspects of parenting, however, including amount of time spent in child care, warmth, negativity, control, and monitoring. Greater caretaking involvement and warmth were found for parents with their own biologically related children than with stepchildren. Biologically related siblings showed both more positivity and negativity in their relationships than did stepsiblings. Being in a complex stepfamily, in contrast to a nonstepfamily, was associated with more problems in family relationships such as parent-child conflict, and in adolescent adjustment such as lower social responsibility and cognitive agency, and higher externalizing in adolescents. There was no evidence that girls were more adversely affected than boys by being in a stepfamily, as has been found with younger children. Moreover, it was found that the associations among family process variables and adolescent adjustment were fairly similar for boys and girls and among different types of families. Finally, there was evidence that adolescence is a time of considerable change in family relations and adolescent adjustment. A decrease in marital quality, decreases in parental warmth, monitoring and control, and mother-adolescent conflict, and decreases in sibling positivity and negativity were found over time. These patterns did not differ for the different family groups. Similarly, the declines in cognitive agency and self-worth and increases in sociability and autonomy over the course of the study were found in adolescents in all family types.

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