Gender Dynamics in Stepfamilies: Adult Stepchildren’s Views


Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Illinois State University, Campus Box 4660, Normal, IL 61790 (


This project explores gender relations in stepfamilies from the vantage point of adult stepchildren who acquired stepparents during childhood. Drawing from 2 rounds of interviews with 15 adult stepchildren systematically selected from the 1997 wave of the University of Southern California Longitudinal Study of Generations, 5 themes of gender dynamics in these families were identified. These were as follows: the persistence of traditional gender practices in the parenting and stepparenting of children, stepmothers as kinkeepers, the renegotiation of relationships with biological fathers once children reached adulthood, parents and stepparents as relationship gatekeepers, and gendered patterns in investment toward biological children and stepchildren. The results provided strong evidence that relationships in these stepfamilies were significantly affected by gendered social practices.