Date of Conferral





Social Work


Sandra M. Harris


Researchers have shown that strained relationships between stepfathers and their stepchildren contribute to family dysfunction and stress. As the number of blended families in the United States continues to rise, it is important to determine how stepparents develop positive relationships with their stepchildren. The purpose of this study was to determine what strategies African American stepfathers use to develop positive, supporting relationships with their school aged stepdaughters. Family systems theory guided this research. The generic qualitative approach was used to conduct the study. Purposeful sampling resulted in data being collected from 7 participants using semi structured interviews. Colaizzi's 7-step method was used to analyze the data. Results from the background information revealed that participants: a) described their relationships with their stepdaughters as positive, b) expressed the desire to be ideal stepfathers, and c) described being a stepfather as a positive emotional experience. Findings further revealed that participants used the following strategies to develop positive relationships with their stepdaughters: a) began relationship with stepdaughters before marriage, b) accepts input from spouse, c) effectively manages conflict and tension, d) and takes actions to build trust and communication. The findings from this research make an original contribution to the literature by using a strengths-based approach surrounding stepfather-stepdaughter relationships in blended family homes. Human service professionals could use information from this study to promote social change by sharing with stepfathers, information regarding strategies they could use to develop positive relationships with their stepchildren.