Linking Stepfamily Functioning, Marital Quality, and Steprelationship Quality. By: Ganong, Lawrence; Jensen, Todd; Sanner, Caroline; Russell, Luke; Coleman, Marilyn; Chapman, Ashton. Family Relations. Oct2019, Vol. 68 Issue 4, p469-483. 15p. 3 Charts.

Objective: To examine whether marital dynamics within remarried couples (in the form of perceived quality and confidence) or perceptions of stepparent–stepchild relationship quality were more strongly associated with stepfamily functioning. Background: Stepfamilies are common in the United States, and identifying factors central to healthy stepfamily functioning is an important task. Some stepfamily clinicians contend that steprelationships may be more closely related to overall stepfamily functioning than remarriage quality, although empirical support for this assertion is limited. Method: Heterosexual remarried couples (N = 291) responded to online surveys asking about marital quality, marital confidence, stepparent–stepchild relationship quality, and stepfamily functioning (i.e., stepfamily cohesion, expressiveness, and harmony). Data were analyzed using actor–partner interdependence modeling in a structural equation modeling framework. Results: Marital dynamics were somewhat more strongly associated with stepfamily functioning than stepparent–stepchild relationship quality, although both were positively associated with stepfamily functioning. Confidence in the future of the marriage had a slightly stronger association with stepfamily functioning than did marital quality. Actor effects were more often statistically associated with stepfamily functioning than were partner effects for both stepparents and biological parents. Conclusion: Findings validate a family systems approach to strengthening stepfamily functioning by highlighting the joint and unique contributions of both marital dynamics and stepparent–stepchild relationship quality. Implications: Clinicians and educators working with stepfamilies should attend to both promoting positive, emotionally close steprelationships and strong marital bonds and confidence in higher order marriages.