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Title: Understanding the stepmother's role : quantifying the impact on quality of life and mental health : how stepmothers' adaptability is mediated by coping style, social support and relationship satisfaction
Author: Doodson, Lisa
ISNI:       0000 0001 3716 2570
Awarding Body: Thames Valley University
Current Institution: University of West London
Date of Award: 2009
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Growth in stepfamily research in recent years has mirrored the growth in the number of stepfamilies in society, however research specific to the role of the stepmother has been recognised to be limited (Coleman, Ganong & Fine, 2000). This study has been designed to address this limitation by conducting a mixed methods approach to research on stepmothers in order to understand the effects of the stepmother role on women’s wellbeing. The research was conducted on a representative stepmother sample of two hundred and fifty stepmothers and eighty biological mothers. The sample was further segmented by residency of the stepchildren and family complexity, to identify differences both between stepmothers and biological mothers, and between different types of stepmother. Results indicated that stepmothers display significantly higher depression and anxiety than biological mothers together with lower perceived social support when compared with biological mothers, particularly from extended family and friends. They were also found to engage in significantly more maladaptive coping mechanisms than biological mothers. The adaptability of stepmothers to their role was found to be predicted by their satisfaction in their spousal relationship and the length of the relationship. The findings from the qualitative study suggested that stepmothers’ anxiety was predominantly related to the presence of the biological mother, the stepchildren and the inherent difficulties with the role itself; with social support from extended family members also affected by the enduring relationship between the stepmother’s in-laws and the biological mother. Further significant differences between the four identified types of stepmother were also found leading to the recommendation that future research recognises and distinguishes between stepmother led families, based on their family complexity and the residency of the stepchildren. The evidence overwhelmingly identifies an urgent need for stepfamily interventions that will facilitate the development of more effective functioning stepfamily units via education and support.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Mental health