Stepparents will tell you that this is a hard and stressful role. Stepmothers in particular have many challenges. Although there is much research that supports this finding, there is still relatively little understanding of the mechanisms and factors that contribute to this stress. And there is even less information about what we can do about it.
Recent work by Danielle Shapiro at the University of Michigan provides some new insights about the parenting stress experienced by stepmothers. She notes that in general couples with higher quality marriages report less parenting stress and writes, “…this was particularly pronounced for stepparents. In addition, stepparents with traditional gender views reported higher levels of parenting stress… for stepparents, both nontraditional gender views and high marital quality jointly predicted the greatest protection from parenting stress. In fact, stepparents with both high marital adjustment and nontraditional gender views were indistinguishable in terms of parenting stress from biological parents, while stepparents who were low on one or both of these dimensions experienced substantially more parenting stress.”
Shapiro suggests that programs and treatment programs for stepparents should include attention to gender roles and marital quality as ways to address parental stress.
Shapiro, D. (2014). Stepparents and parenting stress: The roles of gender, marital quality, and views about gender roles. Family Process, 53(1), 97-108. doi:10.1111/famp.12062
More 2014 studies on stepparenting and stepfamilies…..
Doodson, L. J., & Davies, A. P. C. (2014). Different challenges, different well-being: A comparison of psychological well-being across stepmothers and biological mothers and across four categories of stepmothers. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 55(1), 49-63. doi:10.1080/10502556.2013.862094
Ganong, L., & Coleman, M. (2014). Responsibility inferences and intergenerational obligations to parents and stepparents: Are Step/Children less obligated when older adults are at fault for their problems? Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 55(1), 64-81. doi:10.1080/10502556.2013.862098
Nuru, A. K., & Wang, T. R. (2014). “She was stomping on everything that we used to think of as a family”: Communication and turning points in cohabiting (step)families. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 55(2), 145-163. doi:10.1080/10502556.2013.871957