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Keywords:

  • Stepfamily;
  • Communication;
  • Couple;
  • Withdrawal;
  • Problem-Solving

Effective communication is assumed to help sustain couple relationships and is a key focus of most relationship education programs. We assessed couple problem-solving communication in 65 stepfamily and 52 first-time-marrying couples, with each group stratified into high risk and low risk for relationship problems based on family-of-origin experiences. Relative to partners in first-time couples, partners in stepfamily couples were less positive, less negative, and more likely to withdraw from discussion. Risk was associated with communication in first-time but not stepfamily couples. Stepfamily couples do not exhibit the negative communication evident in high-risk first-time-marrying couples, and available relationship education programs that focus on reducing negative communication are unlikely to meet the needs of stepfamilies.