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Parental status : a new construct describing adolescent perceptions of stepfathers Gamache, Susan

Abstract

This research investigated the effects of mothers' and stepfathers' parental behaviors on late adolescent adjustment and the moderating effects of stepfathers' parental status on the relationship between stepfathers' parental behaviors and late adolescent adjustment. In Study 1 a measure for parental status (PSI: The Parental Status Inventory) was developed. Parental status, as a social cognition, addresses the degree to which the stepparent is perceived as a parent by the stepchild, the stepparent, and/or the residential parent. Findings resulted in a 14-item scale with good reliability (Cronbach's alpha .97). The PSI was moderately associated with attachment and closeness to the stepparent but was not associated with peer attachments. The PSI had a low to moderate association with the age of the respondent at the time the stepfamily originated. In Study 2, the effects of late adolescent perceptions of parental behaviors by mothers and stepfathers on late adolescent adjustment and the moderating effects of stepfathers' parental status on the relationship between his parenting behaviors and late adolescent adjustment were explored. Results of a series of hierarchical multiple regression analyses with interaction terms indicated that, of mothers' and stepfathers' parenting behaviors, only mothers' connection explained a significant amount of variance (10%) in female adaptive behaviors. The models explaining problem behavior in late adolescents did not show significant results for either females or males. Additional findings were that parental status did not moderate the effects of stepfathers' connection, regulation or psychological control on late adolescent adaptive or problem behaviors for either females or males. In summary, parental status did not moderate the variables in question. However, the evidence from this research suggests that the construct of parental status is valid and that the PSI is a valid and reliable measure. Together the construct of parental status and the PSI have the potential to contribute to the development of knowledge in stepfamilies in theoretical, research and clinical settings.

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