Academic journal article Journal of Behavioural Sciences

Stepmother Rejection and Psychological Maladjustment among Stepdaughters: Mediating Role of Social Competence

Academic journal article Journal of Behavioural Sciences

Stepmother Rejection and Psychological Maladjustment among Stepdaughters: Mediating Role of Social Competence

Article excerpt

Stepfamily researchers report that although stepparents, specifically stepmothers take too much responsibility of care and nurturance of stepchildren even more than their biological parents yet children do not welcome step parental extra care and perceive it as undesirable favor (Cartwright, 2010; Ferri & Smith, 1996). Children in stepmother families appear to be less warm, less interactive, and more aversive in stepmother-child relationship (Hetherington & Jodl, 1994) and perceive stepmothers as rejecting (Shelton, Walters, & Harold, 2008). It becomes very difficult for the children to accept stepmother because they perceive their stepmothers as sharing partner in time and attention of real father (Bray, 1999).

Golombok and Tasker (2015) demonstrate that far less information is available about influence of stepmother on children's socio-emotional behavior than that of stepfathers. Studies conducted on university students living in stepfamilies reveal that respondents' attitude towards stepmother is less positive than towards biological mothers (Fine, 1986; Planitz & Feeney, 2009). In the same stream, qualitative research investigated attitude of adult stepdaughter towards stepmothers and it was found that stepdaughters gave more favorable account for stepmothers and perceived them as friendly (Crohn, 2006). However, studies conducted on British adult sample who spent time with stepparents gave less favorable opinion about stepmothers than stepfathers. Perhaps mothers (biological or step) take responsibility of socializing the children and stepmother can never substitute the biological mothers' place in children's lives despite all the efforts that stepmother put to satisfy the stepchildren. This might be the potential reason that children give less favorable account of stepmothers (Barnes, Thompson, Daniel, & Burchardt, 1998).

Parental acceptance or rejection has been conceptualized within the framework of Interpersonal Acceptance-Rejection theory which categorized the parental acceptance-rejection into four dimensions (Warmth/Affecti on, Hostility/Aggression, Indifference/Neglect, and Undifferentiated rejection). These dimensions influence seven major personality dispositions named as hostility and aggression, dependency, negative self- esteem, negative self-adequacy, emotional unresponsiveness, emotional instability and negative worldview which collectively reflect psychological adjustment (Rohner, & Rohner, 1980). Research revealed that children report more adjustment difficulties in stepparent (mother or father)-child relationship compared to biological parent-child relationship (Golombok & Tasker, 2015).

Gender Differences in Step-parental Rejection. Reviews on step parenting researches provide strong evidence about gender differences in terms of children's attitude towards stepparents. Girls perceive their stepfathers more negatively than the boys (Hetherington & Jodl, 1994; Vuchinich, 1991). In addition, social competence acts as buffer against maternal rejection and psychological maladjustment. Girls who have adaptive skills are more likely to manage relationships with stepmothers than those who are socially less adaptive (Hetherington, 1999a; Hetherington & Stanley-Hagan, 2002).

Social Competence and Psychological Maladjustment in Children with Step-family. The evidences about role of social competence in determining level of psychological maladjustment and perception about stepparents, especially stepmothers, seems to be important but no systematic effort has been put in identifying mediating nature of social competence. Theoretically, social competence has been reported as culturally bound construct e.g., obedience has been identified as core component of social competence in Pakistan but not in Western cultures (Chen & Rubin, 1992; Ogbu, 1981; Shujja & Malik, 2011) Thus, assessment tools developed in one culture may not be generalizable to other cultures. …

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