Stepfamily Closeness and Depression Among American Indian Emerging Adults: A Structural Equation Modeling Approach


stepfamilies, depression, American Indian, parent/child relations, family theory


Stepfamilies are one of the fastest growing family structures among all racial groups in the United States. Stepfamily research among many racial groups, specifically American Indians, is virtually nonexistent. This is unfortunate, as American Indians are more likely to divorce and remarry compared with other populations. From a family systems perspective, this study examined whether retrospectively perceived closeness in three stepfamily relationships, namely child–residential biological parent, child–residential stepparent, and child–stepsibling, were negatively associated with depression scores in 226 American Indian emerging adults. A structural equation model showed that increased child–residential biological parent and child–stepsibling closeness predicted decreased depression scores, whereas child–residential stepparent closeness did not. We also found that depression scores significantly predicted retrospective perceptions of child–residential biological parent, child–residential stepparent, and child–stepsibling closeness. Findings encourage interventions that strengthen American Indian child–residential biological parent and child–stepsibling relationships, and underscore the need for further research that explores American Indian stepfamily relationships.

Original Publication Citation

Ward, K., Limb, G., *Higbee, S., & *Hauter, H. (in press). Stepfamily closeness and depression among American Indian emerging adults: A structural equation modeling approach. Journal of Family Issues.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Family Issues




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Social Work

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor