Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Family Relations 71 (2022), pp. 1266–1285. DOI:10.1111/fare.12642


Copyright © 2022 National Council on Family Relations; published by Wiley. Used by permission.


Objective: To understand turning points (TPs) in the development of positive stepparent–stepchild communication and relationships.

Background: Scholars stress the importance of communication in co-constructing healthy stepparent–stepchild relationships. The researchers focused on positive stepparenting via understanding transformational turning point (TP) events across time. Research questions explored how stepparents with an overall positive relationship with a stepchild characterize TPs and the discursive constructions of the stepparent role.

Method: The team analyzed 877 pages of data from 37 in-depth interviews with stepparents who described self-identified TP events, reflected in visual graphs of 279 TPs.

Results: Data were coded into 11 TP types, focused on structural and role changes for stepparents, co-constructed over time. The top three TP types were changes in household composition, communicating support through offering protection and being present/available, and role change, most frequently by functioning as a parent versus friend. All the TPs highlight discursive work to forge positive stepparenting roles.

Conclusions: The findings extend earlier studies of stepchildren’s experiences and communication practices that ground resilience to manage relational resources through investments of quality time and enactment of social support. Implications: Applications suggest support for stepparents to have quality interactions with stepchildren and training to develop healthy communication practices and facilitate resilience.