The role of stepsiblings in adolescents' adjustment to reconstituted families
This study was conducted to investigate whether the presence of stepsiblings impacts on the adolescent's adjustment to reconstituted families and whether adolescent's adjustment to reconstituted families differs in terms of stepfamily type. To achieve this, adolescent adjustment was measured across three different family types: non-stepfamilies, simple stepfamilies and complex stepfamilies. The complex stepfamilies were divided into three subgroups: stepfamilies in which residential stepsiblings were either of the opposite sex or the same sex or of both sexes to enable the researcher to investigate the moderating effect of sibling gender on the interaction between gender and family type on adolescent adjustment. The total sample comprised of 90 adolescents from English medium schools in the Free State. To ensure a more homogenous sample, the following were controlled for: age (15 to 18 years), race (white), socio-economic status (middle-upper class), length of second marriage (exceeding two years), and the absence of multiple family disruptions (more than one divorce or parental death). Adolescent adjustment was investigated by means of the FFAQ according to the six dimensions: Structure, Affect, Communication, Behaviour Control, Value Transmission and External Systems. A biographical questionnaire was also used to accommodate items pertaining to the participants' family type and the control variables. A two-way analysis of variance was performed on each of the subscales of the FFAQ with family type and gender as independent variables. The results generally reflected a non-significant interaction effect of gender and family type on the adjustment of male and female participants from the five family types. However, a significant interaction effect (at the 5%-level) of gender and family type was found on the 'Structure' subscale of the FFAQ. Thus, the adjustment of male and female adolescents to reconstituted families differed from adolescents from non-stepfamilies with regard to the structure (a family's organisational structure with clear but permeable boundaries around individual members and a cohesive parental subsystem) of the family. A post-hoc t-test revealed that boys experienced a significantly (at the 1%-level) higher degree of structure than girls did, suggesting that the adjustment of boys in complex stepfamilies in which residential stepsiblings are of both sexes is significantly better for boys than for girls. Key terms: adolescent adjustment, presence of stepsiblings, family type, simple stepfamilies, complex stepfamilies, non-stepfamilies, gender differences, structural differences, FFAQ, adolescents' attitude towards stepsiblings.