My Mother’s Husband: Factors Associated with How Adolescents Label Their Stepfathers
Maggie L. Thorsen, Pennsylvania State University
Valarie King, Pennsylvania State University
Adolescents in stepfamilies use different labels when describing their stepfather, such as “stepfather” or “mother’s husband.” These labels may reflect youths’ sense of family identity or family dynamics. The current study uses nationally representative data (Add Health) on a sample of adolescents living with their mothers and a married stepfather (n = 1192) to examine factors that may be associated with how teens describe their stepfather, and changes in this labeling over the course of a year. Findings suggest that closeness with nonresident fathers increases the likelihood that teens avoid the “stepfather” label, while closeness with mothers increases the likelihood that they adopt the label. Importantly, closeness with their stepfather was not associated with how they label him. Other characteristics of the stepfamily, such as the length of time spent in the stepfamily and the presence of step- and full-siblings in the household, are also important predictors of stepfather labeling.