Tuning in to kids : evaluating an emotion-coaching parenting programme among stepfamilies.
Thesis DisciplineHealth Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Transitioning into a stepfamily can be an emotionally turbulent time for everyone involved. Stepfamily members, as well as the stepfamily as a whole, are faced with many unique challenges, including adapting to changes in family dynamics and routines, forming new step-relationships, and establishing solidarity within the stepfamily system. The stepparent-stepchild relationship is thought to be one of the most critical relationships to the overall functioning of the stepfamily. Yet, the involuntary nature of the relationship, the ambiguity that surrounds a stepparent’s role and boundaries, non-biological ties, and lack of shared history means the development of a positive stepparent-stepchild relationship can be one of the most difficult tasks. This study explored the effectiveness and suitability of an emotion-focused parenting programme on stepparents’ emotional parenting styles and practices, stepchildren’s behaviour, and stepparents’ overall family satisfaction. Participants were nine stepparents from around Christchurch who agreed to participate in a six-week Tuning in to Kids parenting programme, specifically adapted for stepparents. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected via pre- and post-programme questionnaires and brief phone interviews. Results from the quantitative analyses showed improvements in stepparents’ emotion regulation, emotion coaching and empathy, lower emotion dismissing, increased warmth and sensitivity, and lower over-reactivity. Stepparents also reported greater overall family satisfaction. No significant differences were found for stepparents’ lax/inconsistent discipline or stepchildren’s behaviour. Five main themes were generated from the qualitative data relating to the positive experience; increased emotional awareness, group connectedness, impact of adaptations, and identified challenges. Results are discussed in relation to a family systems perspective underlying the stepfamily literature, emotional development research, and in comparison to previously established parenting programmes. Overall, the study shows promising preliminary findings to suggest that an emotion-focused programme is a suitable and potentially effective approach for providing support to stepparents.