The purposes of this review are (a) to summarize holistically and synthesize research evidence about “what works” regarding effective stepfamily childrearing (i.e., behaviors that contribute to children’s physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being) drawn from three research reviews and (b) explore implications of a “what works” approach in family scholarship.
This project was designed to identify research-based evidence about effective childrearing in stepfamilies by parents, stepparents, and coparents.
We examined 2338 reports, identifying 119 studies yielding empirical evidence about “what works” in stepfamily childrearing.
On the basis of our analyses of these studies, we find that researchers have found multiple ways children in stepfamilies are effectively raised and that stepchildren benefit when (a) parents exercise parental control by disciplining and setting rules early, (b) stepparents focus on bonding with stepchildren while parents work at maintaining close bonds with children, (c) stepparents and parents agree on rules and roles, (d) coparenting subsystems work collaboratively, and (e) parents and stepparents engage in activities to facilitate family cohesion.
Studies from a “what works” perspective were conducted using a variety of methods and approaches. Effective childrearing in stepfamilies benefits individual, relational, and stepfamily well-being and effective stepfamily functioning. There are multiple ways to effectively raise children in stepfamilies. There are still things we do not know about childrearing in stepfamilies, however.
Focusing on resilience processes and positive family dynamics yield findings transferable to real-world applications. Many areas of family scholarship would benefit from a what works perspective.