This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Exploring the Influence of Residential Status of Stepparents on Program Effects of Couple and Relationship Education




Stewart, Sheena

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Human Development and Family Studies


While the research on CRE programs has expanded significantly in the past decade, only a handful of studies have considered family structure and its influence on the program experience or explored the specific experiences of stepparents in CRE. This study explored the comparative baseline levels of depressive symptoms for residential and non-residential stepparents in CRE and the influence of residential status on the amount of change in several areas of individual (depressive symptoms, positive assertiveness, conflict management skills) and relational functioning (couple quality and confidence and dedication in the couple relationship). Findings from a sample of 324 residential and non-residential primarily European-American and African-American stepparents indicate that non-residential (i.e., part-time) stepparents were more distressed, as indicated by significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms, at program start. Further, neither group showed any improvement in conflict management skills or depressive symptoms; however, for both groups there was a significant positive shift in their report of couple quality and confidence in the stability of the couple relationship. Time X residential status interaction effects found changes in two domains: dedication to the relationship and use of positive assertiveness skills. In both cases, it was residential stepparents who experienced beneficial changes in these areas, while non-residential stepparents did not demonstrate significant beneficial changes in either. Implications for programs and future research will be presented.