Stepfamilies: History, Research, and Policy

By Lown, Jean M. | Journal of Marriage and Family, February 1999 | Go to article overview

Stepfamilies: History, Research, and Policy


Lown, Jean M., Journal of Marriage and Family


Stepfamilies: History, Research, and Policy. Irene Levin & Martin B. Sussman (Eds.). New York: The Haworth Press. 1997. 328 pp. ISBN 07890-0337-6. $49.95 cloth, $24.95 paper.

Editors Irene Levin and Martin Sussman have compiled 18 articles on stepfamily research and policy. Most of the articles also address counseling or educational needs for stepfamilies, including a focus on children's needs.

In "Stepfamilies in 1984 and Today-A Scholarly Perspective," Marilyn Ihinger-Tallman and Kay Pasley review two decades of research to identify consistent findings and empirical generalizations: (a) Stepparent norms are developing, (b) developing cohesion takes 3-5 years, (c) the stepmother-stepchild relationship is the most problematic, (d) gender studies reveal the stresses of stepdaughter-stepfather relations, and (e) stepchildren leave the household sooner. They document improvements in methodology and offer research recommendations.

Based on a review of theory and research, Lawrence Ganong and Marilyn Coleman conclude that how society views stepfamilies is by ignoring or stigmatizing them. They discuss unrealistic expectations of individuals entering stepfamily life, make recommendations for overcoming the challenges of noninstitutionalization and stigmatization, and offer research questions.

Coleman and Ganong enrich our understanding of how members of stepfamilies perceive their roles in "Stepfamilies from the Stepfamily Perspective." Our culture does not prepare people to assume the roles of stepparents. Adherence to the model of the nuclear family presents obstacles to stepfamily members.

In "Family Life Education Programs for Stepfamilies," Robert Hughes and Jennifer Schroeder summarize issues facing stepfamilies and evaluate existing programs. Although noting the "lack of solid intervention programs" (p. …

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