Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Rural Sociology


This analysis is an application of structural and process role theories to understand stepmothers' relationships with their stepchildren. By defining roles as expectations of behaviors, this research examined: (1) how stepmothers determine what is expected of them, (2) how the expectations fit with their characterization of themselves, (3) their willingness to become involved and, (4) their willingness to develop relationships with their stepchildren. Using factors associated with role expectations of stepmothering, a role theory was developed by converging process and structural role theories. Hypotheses were deduced from the theoretical propositions and were tested using a cross-sectional research design. The data were analyzed using Pearson's Product Moment and Multiple Regression Analysis. Results suggested that role theory is applicable to understanding stepmother-stepchild relations. Factors were identified which were predictive of affective relations among stepmothers and stepchildren. The strongest predictor of positive affect was shared role consensus, that is, stepmothers and stepchildren having similar expectations of stepmothering. The next factor, varied expectations of the role, had a negative affect on relations when stepfamily members had differing expectations of stepmothering. A third predictor, self-role congruence, suggested that when stepmothers identify with the role they also have positive relations with stepchildren. The fourth factor was involvement, that is, the more stepmothers are involved with stepchildren the more positive the relationship. Wicked stepmother beliefs was the final predictor with stepmothers' fears of being associated with the wicked image producing a negative affect on relations. Several implications for practice with stepfamilies are offered based on these factors. Most importantly, practitioners need to assist stepfamily members in reaching consensus on expectations of stepmothering.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Stepmothers -- Family relationships
Stepchildren -- Family relationships



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University