Jensen, Todd M. (2020). Patterns of Interactions Between Youth and Resident Stepmothers: A Latent Class Analysis. Family Process.
Stepparent–child relationships are a core pillar of stepfamily functioning and well-being. Stepparents can take on a variety of roles in the lives of their stepchildren, ranging from de facto parents to distant acquaintances. There remain important opportunities to explore specific interactional patterns between youth and stepparents, particularly resident stepmothers. Drawing from a family systems perspective, the purpose of the current study is to explore patterns of youth–stepmother interaction across recreational, personal, academic, and disciplinary domains of family life. Latent class analysis is conducted using a representative sample of 295 youth (mean age: 15.82 years, SD = 1.63; 41% female; 65% non-Hispanic White) residing in father–stepmother households who have living nonresident mothers at Wave I of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. The optimal latent class solution yielded four interactional patterns, labeled versatile and involved (21%), inactive (12%), casually connected (17%), and academically oriented (50%). The latent classes are also contrasted with respect to stepfamily relationship quality, youth well-being, and socio-demographic characteristics. Foremost, the results illustrate significant variability in the patterns of interactions between youth and their resident stepmothers, which could be attributed to youths’ varying autonomy-seeking efforts and other complex family dynamics. Consistent with a family systems perspective, associations between youth–stepmother interactional patterns and family and youth outcomes highlight the importance of the relationship between youth and their resident stepmothers. Importantly, not all interactional patterns differed significantly across outcomes, suggesting that no one pattern is universally optimal in father–stepmother families with adolescent children.
Jensen, Todd M.