An exploration of the Family FIRO model with remarried families

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Counseling Psychology

First Committee Member

Margaret Crosbie-Burnett - Committee Chair


Research on stepfamilies has not generally been guided by theoretical frameworks. There is a need for theory-based empirical work on the stages of stepfamily development. In this study, the Family FIRO model was introduced as a promising theoretical base for conceptualizing successful stepfamily development. This model is comprised of three stages: Inclusion, Control, and Intimacy. Family inclusion concerns consist of structure, connectedness, and shared meaning or how the family defines itself. Family control refers to influence and power which are described as dominating, reactive, or collaborative. Family Intimacy issues include self-disclosure and close personal exchanges. Normally, these stages follow one another sequentially.In order to test the theory, it was postulated that clinic stepfamilies would be at an earlier stage of development than nonclinic families. Therefore, a study was conducted using relevant subscales from the Stepfamily Adjustment Scale to compare the stages of development between 20 clinic and 23 matched nonclinic stepfamilies. The clinic subsample included 10 stepmother and 10 stepfather families. The matched nonclinic subsample consisted of 9 stepmother and 14 stepfather families. The Stepfamily Adjustment Scale (SAS) was completed by the biological parent, stepparent, and oldest adolescent living in the household at least half time.A multivariate analysis of variance was used to compare the subsamples. The independent variable was clinic versus nonclinic subsample. The dependent variables were three subscales designed to measure the Inclusion stage and three subscales designed to measure the Control stage of the Family FIRO. The results showed significant differences between clinic and nonclinic stepparent responses at the Inclusion stage of the Family FIRO in the expected direction. No significant differences were found between clinic and nonclinic biological parent or adolescent responses at the Inclusion stage. No significant differences were found between subsamples at the Control stage of the Family FIRO. Family FIRO theory was supported in part. Possibly, FIRO theory, which was created for stranger groups, must be modified for stepfamilies.


Psychology, Social; Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

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