Entangled in a complex network of family relationships: the quality of the stepparent-stepchild relationship within different custody arrangements following parental divorce

Sofie Vanassche, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Koen Matthijs, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Gray Swicewood, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Custody arrangements following divorce and stepparent-stepchild relationships are interrelated in a complex way. The increasing number of children living in joint physical custody following parental divorce can have different consequences for the quality of these relationships: closer relationships with both biological parents, the higher risk on role ambiguity in more complex family systems and differences between part-time and fulltime step relationships can have different effects on the quality of the relationship between stepchild and stepparent. Using data from the research project Divorce in Flanders (DiF) we study how the custody arrangement following divorce is associated with the quality of the stepparent-stepchild relationship. We test the importance of fulltime and parttime co-residence, the importance of a limited childrearing role of the stepparent, the possibility of positive spillover effects of good parent-child and partner relationships and the danger of role ambiguity within complex family systems. We compare the results for the reported relationship quality by respectively stepparent and stepchild and compared to the relationship with both parents. This multi-actor perspective has both theoretical and methodological advantages.

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Presented in Session 19: Step families

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