Stepfamily Stereotypes in Common Discourse and Lived Experiences

Article Title: Stepfamily Stereotypes in Common Discourse and Lived Experiences

Author(s): Saira Aslam, Naumana Amjad, Afifa Anjum, Amina Obaid Khawaja & Zainab Bashir

Institute(s): Institute of Applied Psychology University of Punjab; Lahore College for Women University; University of Central Punjab

Journal: Pakistan Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 2015, Vol. 13, No.1, 3-12

Correspondence Address: Naumana Amjad, Institute of Applied Psychology, University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan. E-mail:


The aim of this research was to explore step family constellations and popularly held perceptions. Study I comprised a word association test (N = 30) and one focus group with young adults (N = 8). The words stepmother and stepfather evoked more negative associations such as „cruel‟ and „bad‟ than neutral or positive associations. Discussion of the focus group revealed that stepfamilies faced difficulties and relationship issues. In Study II semi-structured interviews with 8 individuals (N = 8) living in stepfamilies were carried out. Challenges faced by these individuals included adjustment difficulties, non-acceptance, societal biases, mistrust, lack of warmth and closeness and injustice. There were also supportive relationships and care within stepfamily constellation in some cases. The associations were compared with depiction of stepmother in three children stories that featured a stepmother. The themes that emerged were miserable stepchild, cruel stepmother, ineffective biological father, maltreatment and conspiracy, and problematic sibling relationships. As the dynamic social impact theory posits, social representation of families may be informed by popular narrative and does not necessarily reflect the real experiences.

Keywords: remarriage, experiences, step-families, blended families, stereotypes

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