Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Fred L. Adair


The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between ex-spousal interactions following remarriage and the behavioral and emotional adjustment of stepchildren. The subjects for the study were volunteers and were recruited for the study either through The PACES Family Counseling Center at The College of William and Mary or through a networking sampling procedure. The study participants included stepchildren between the ages of 8 and 16, and their residential biological parents.;Thirty-one stepchild/biological-parent pairs participated in the study by completing a series of questionnaires relevant to ex-spousal interactions and children's adjustment. Ex-spousal interactions were assessed using The Content of Coparental Interactions scale, The Quality of Coparental Communications Scale, and The O'Leary-Porter Overt Hostility Scale. Stepchildren's adjustment was measured using The Revised Behavior Problem Checklist and The Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale. Stepchildren's perceptions of the ex-spousal relationship were assessed using The Children's Perception Questionnaire.;Measures of the content and quality of ex-spousal interactions were statistically analyzed to determine if, and to what extent, they were associated with measures of stepchildren's adjustment. Partial correlation procedures were employed to control for the influence of selected demographic variables in the relationships under investigation. Statistically significant correlations were found between ex-spousal conflict and/or hostility and the self-concept and behavioral adjustment of stepchildren. The highest correlations obtained were between stepchildren's perceptions of ex-spousal discord and stepchildren's adjustment measures.;The results of the study suggest that ex-spousal interactions are a significant factor in children's adjustment even after parental remarriage and the establishment of a stepfamily system. Findings also suggest that stepchildren's perception of ex-spousal discord may be the key determinant in the effect ex-spousal interactions have on stepchildren's self-concept and behavior. The implications of the significant findings of this study are discussed within the context of Structural Family Therapy Theory.



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