My mother’s husband: Factors associated with how adolescents label their stepfathers

Maggie L. Thorsen, Valarie King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


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 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 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. Closeness with their stepfather was not associated with how they label him. Other characteristics of the stepfamily are also important predictors of stepfather labeling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)835-851
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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