Date of Award

1997

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Program

Counseling Psychology, Ph.D.

First Advisor

Nancy J. Carbonell

Second Advisor

Donna J. Habenicht

Third Advisor

Wilfred G. A. Futcher

Abstract

Problem. Much more is known about determinants of marital satisfaction in first marriages than remarriages. Although the stepfamily is a dominant and unique family type, it lacks its own theoretical framework from which to investigate factors that contribute to marital satisfaction and stepfamily success.

Method. This study evaluated marital satisfaction in stepfamilies in light of the contextual, problem-solving, and investment models of relationship satisfaction. A questionnaire developed to assess marital satisfaction in stepfamilies using variables from the three conceptual models with the Kansas Marital Scale as a global measure of assessment was sent to 660 stepfamilies selected from the mailing list of the Stepfamily Association of America. A total of 405 individuals (163 men and 242 women) responded.

Results. Each model explained a large proportion of the variance in marital satisfaction for men and women in stepfamilies, and for respondents in stepmother and complex stepfamilies.

Contextual model variables of social support were more useful in predicting marital satisfaction in stepfamiliesthan were demographic or spiritual support variables. The contextual model was the best predictor of marital satisfaction for men in stepfamilies.

Problem-solving model variables of conflict resolution styles were more useful in predicting marital satisfaction in stepfamilies than were joint decision-making variables. However, the problem-solving model variables had less impact on marital satisfaction for men in stepfamilies.

Investment model variables of relationship costs and relationship benefits effectively predicted marital satisfaction in a stepfamily. The investment model was the best predictor of marital satisfaction for women in stepfamilies.

A model was developed that integrated significant variables from each of the three conceptual models which predicted a larger proportion of the variance in marital satisfaction than did any single model.

Conclusions. Whereas the contextual, problem-solving, and investment models of relationship satisfaction predicted a large proportion of the variance in marital satisfaction in a stepfamily, there were differences between the models for men and women in stepfamilies and between stepfamily types. A more predictive model is proposed that selects fewer variables from each of the three conceptual modes to form an integrated model of relationship satisfaction to be used with stepfamilies.

Subject Area

Stepfamilies, Husband and wife, Domestic relations

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