The presence of siblings and stepsiblings and adolescent adjustment in stepfamilies

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Counseling Psychology

First Committee Member

Margaret Crosbie-Burnett - Committee Chair


The impact that a sibling and/or a stepsibling may have on an adolescent's adjustment in a stepfamily has received very little attention from stepfamily researchers. Additionally, sibling and stepsibling subsystems have been virtually ignored in theories of stepfamily development and in psychoeducation and intervention models. In an attempt to augment the paucity of research in this area, an archival data set of 142 adolescents ages 11--22 who lived at least half-time in a stepfamily was utilized to determine which sibling-related structural variables are related to adolescent adjustment in stepfamilies. In an effort to examine potential relationships between sibling-related variables and stepfamily adjustment the following variables were utilized. Adolescents' self-reported level of anxiety was measured by the Revised Children's Manifest Anxiety Scale (Reynolds & Richmond, 1978, 1985). Adolescents' self-reports of family happiness were measured by selected subscales of the Stepfamily Adjustment Scale (Crosbie-Burnett, 1989b). The quality of the adolescents' relationships with their residential biological parent and the quality of adolescents' relationship with their residential stepparent formed the remaining dependent variables. The independent variable derived from the Stepfamily Adjustment Scale was the adolescents' self-report of their relationship with their stepsibling(s). Additional independent variables were presence or absence of a full sibling, presence or absence of a stepsibling, gender of the target adolescent, and age of the target adolescent. There were no significant relationships between the dependent and independent variables. Only gender was found to be a significant predictor of adolescents' family happiness in stepfamilies, with males scoring significantly higher on the family happiness subscale of the Stepfamily Adjustment Scale and significantly lower on the Revised Children's Manifest Anxiety Scale. The results of this study indicate that the presence of a sibling and stepsibling may not impact adolescent adjustment in stepfamilies.


Psychology, Clinical; Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

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