Protector and friend: Turning points and discursive constructions of the stepparent role

Bailey M. Oliver-Blackburn, Dawn O. Braithwaite, Vincent R. Waldron, Robert Hall, Lucas Hackenburg, Braedon G. Worman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: To understand turning points (TPs) in the development of positive stepparent–stepchild communication and relationships. Background: Scholars stress the importance of communication in co-constructing healthy stepparent–stepchild relationships. The researchers focused on positive stepparenting via understanding transformational turning point (TP) events across time. Research questions explored how stepparents with an overall positive relationship with a stepchild characterize TPs and the discursive constructions of the stepparent role. Method: The team analyzed 877 pages of data from 37 in-depth interviews with stepparents who described self-identified TP events, reflected in visual graphs of 279 TPs. Results: Data were coded into 11 TP types, focused on structural and role changes for stepparents, co-constructed over time. The top three TP types were changes in household composition, communicating support through offering protection and being present/available, and role change, most frequently by functioning as a parent versus friend. All the TPs highlight discursive work to forge positive stepparenting roles. Conclusions: The findings extend earlier studies of stepchildren's experiences and communication practices that ground resilience to manage relational resources through investments of quality time and enactment of social support. Implications: Applications suggest support for stepparents to have quality interactions with stepchildren and training to develop healthy communication practices and facilitate resilience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1266-1285
Number of pages20
JournalFamily Relations
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • family communication and interaction
  • parent–child relationships
  • qualitative: discourse/narrative analysis
  • remarriage and stepfamily
  • resilience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Protector and friend: Turning points and discursive constructions of the stepparent role'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this