22 Pages

How Society Views Stepfamilies

WithLawrence H. Ganong, Marilyn Coleman

Researchers recently have shown an increased interest in the impact of societal views (i.e., norms, expectations, stereotypes, myths) on relationships in stepfamilies (Coleman & Ganong, 1987; Kurdek & Fine, 1991; 1993). This increased interest is due to a growing recognition that cultural beliefs about family life exert a strong influence on the ways in which people conduct themselves, evaluate their own situations, and expect to be regarded by others (Dallos, 1994). It is increasingly understood that societal views influence the level of social support stepfamilies receive, which in turn affects their abilities to function effectively (Cherlin, 1978). In this paper we will review research and theory regarding societal views of stepfamilies. Although most of the research we cite has been conducted in the United States, there is ample evidence that what is described in this paper is true for Canada (Messenger, 1984), Europe (Bernardes, 1993; Hughes, 1991; Levin, 1993; Nemenyi, 1992), Israel (Guttman & Broudo, 1989), and Australia (Webber, 1991).