Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Family Communication 14 (2014), pp 149–166.


Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Used by permission.


The current study adopts a narrative perspective in examining the content of 80 stepchildren’s stepfamily origin stories. Results reveal five types of stepfamily origin stories: Sudden, Dark-sided, Ambivalent, Idealized, and Incremental. Results support the hypothesis that story type would predict differences in family satisfaction; stepchildren who described their stepfamily origins as Idealized were more satisfied than those whose origins were Dark-sided or Sudden. Overall, participants framed their stepfamily identity more positively when their stepfamily beginnings were characterized by closeness, friendship, and even expected ups and downs, rather than when they were left out of the process of negotiating or forming the stepfamily and when the beginnings were tainted by issues they considered to be dark. Stepparents or practitioners may benefit from these findings by examining the means by which stepparents may involve stepchildren in the process of stepfamily courtship, facilitate closeness, and set up realistic expectations for negotiating stepfamily life.