Stepparenting issues and relationship quality: The role of clear communication


social work, children and families, communication, family interventions, gender, parenting, stepfamilies


Summary: Using data from a sample of RELATE (the RELATionship Evaluation Survey) respondents in stepfamilies (N = 560), this study examined the association between relationship quality (satisfaction and stability) and stepparenting issues. Although stepparenting issues can negatively impact romantic partners in stepfamilies, we suggest that high-quality communication may be a protective factor for individuals and couples stressed by their relationship with a nonbiological child.

Findings: Our results show that stepparenting issues are negatively associated with satisfaction and stability, but is partially mediated by clear-sending communication. Further, this mediation is stronger for women when considering satisfaction and for men when considering stability.

Applications: Our results show that stepparenting issues can be a strong sense of discord among romantic couples. Yet, they also indicate that clear-sending communication in relationships can substantially reduce the negative association of these issues with relationship quality. This finding suggests that therapeutic models that focus on emotionally focused couples therapy, structural family therapy, or address issues within the family system may be best for addressing common problems in stepfamilies.

Original Publication Citation

Pace, G.T.*, Shafer, K., Jensen, T.M.*, & Larson, J.H. (2015). “Stepparenting Issues and Relationship Quality: The Role of Clear Communication.” Journal of Social Work, 15(1): 24-44.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Social Work




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor