Growing Up in Stepfamilies

Growing Up in Stepfamilies

Growing Up in Stepfamilies

Growing Up in Stepfamilies

Synopsis

Millions of children in Britain now grow up in stepfamilies, but little is reliably known about their experiences of stepfamily life--or why some of these young people encounter problems in the long run while other flourish. This is a new, pioneering, multidisciplinary study that tracks the lives of fifty children born in 1958, offering unique insights into the long-term effects of stepfamily life in the UK today. It will interest many scholars and students of sociology, social policy, public policy/administration, and psychology.

Excerpt

In setting out on this research we had three fundamental objectives in mind. First, in sharp contrast to the great majority of existing studies, we wanted to focus, not on the immediate experiences of difficulties in stepfamily life, but on its long- term impact: and in particular, on what was distinctive about the experience of those members of families who in the long run fared best. It was precisely these relatively more successful experiences of stepchildhood which were and are least studied, although understanding them must be crucial to helping stepfamily members in the future. Secondly, with this in mind we wanted to combine the strengths of quantitative and qualitative research, through carrying out a set of in-depth interviews with informants who were chosen from a reliable sample of the general population, in contrast to a clinical sample. And thirdly, we wanted to bring together the different skills and insights of social-science researchers, on the one hand, and therapists and clinicians, on the other, to produce a study which was both reliable and useful.

Researching stepfamilies, particularly on a relatively small budget, inevitably raises complex methodological issues. This is because stepfamilies are created through a great diversity of paths, as well as taking a variety of structural forms; and on top of this, because social stigma makes obtaining random samples of them unusually difficult. But like all researchers, we had to find technical solutions to such problems in a wider context. Before discussing our chosen methodology, we need to refer briefly to the contemporary political context of research on stepfamilies; to the changing methodological perspectives of our disciplines; and to the specific historical context of our long-term study.

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