Date of Award

5-1994

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Warren H. Jones

Committee Members

John Lounsbury, Robert G. Walker, F. Stanley Lusby

Abstract

This research examined differences in relationship patterns between men and women in stepfamilies and men and women in biological families. Previous studies have generally reported more distant relationships with parents for respondents in stepfamilies. Findings on relationships outside the home have been contradictory; some research observed no effect on peer relationships for subjects from stepfamilies, still others reported more difficulty in relationships and greater risk for delinquency among this population. In order to measure relationship differences, three psychometric scales and the social network list were administered to 215 college students (63 stepchildren and 152 biological children). Results indicated that stepsons experienced more loneliness and less peer attachment than respondents from biological families, but stepdaughters reported being less lonely and closer to peers than respondents from biological families. Women, in general, were less lonely than men. Participant from step families endorsed less family satisfaction and less parent attachment than participants from biological families. On the social network, stepchildren listed more people on their social network than children from biological families did; in particular, stepchildren included more extended family than subjects from biological families. In conclusion, stepchildren are more distant from their families than are biological children, and stepdaughters appear to compensate with relationships outside the home more effectively than stepsons do.

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