Document Type

Dissertation - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Rural Sociology


In this study, structural symbolic interactionism combined with three versions of role theory were used to explain the link between stepmothers' social structure and self-structure. Variations in stepmothers' overall emotional well-being were examined in the context of self role congruence, anticipatory socialization, wicked stepmother beliefs, level of involvement, level of spousal disagreement, stepmother self-esteem, and role desirability. Propositions were developed from the literature review and are accompanied by research hypotheses. The study uses a cross-sectional research design which utilized a questionnaire to measure stepmothers' perceptions of the step mothering role. The stepmothers' names for the survey, all who were married in a midsized community in the Great Plains, were generated from marriage license applications. Pearson's correlation, partial correlation, and multiple regression were used to analyze the data. Hypothesis testing using Pearson's correlation supported the empirical model introduced in this study. Partial correlation procedures revealed that the strength of the relationship between stepmother role desirability and negative overall emotional well-being is lower when controlling for stepmothers experiencing their first remarriage. Similarly, the strength of the relationship between stepmother negative self-esteem and negative overall emotional well-being is altered when controlling for just stepmothers experiencing their first remarriage, just stepmothers who cohabitated before this marriage, and just stepmothers who did not cohabitate before marriage. Multiple regression analysis identified stepmother negative self-esteem as the best predictor of stepmother overall negative emotional well-being. It is suggested that practitioners working with stepfamilies can better understand stepfamily dynamics by focusing on self-role congruence and how it affects desirability and self-esteem. They can increase stepmothers' emotional well-being by helping stepmothers realize that their new family is a structural variation of the nuclear family, and by preparing them for the diverse roles they will encounter.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Stepmothers Stepmothers -- Attitudes Social structure Social role



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University