Dept. of Psychology
Cnr Morrin and Merton
The University of Auckland
Auckland 1142, New Zealand
My name is Anna Miller and I am a Doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology programme at the University of Auckland. This study is part of my Doctoral research and will be supervised by Dr Claire Cartwright and Dr Kerry Gibson.
Purpose of the research
Today, in Western societies, many people live in stepfamilies. Due to the increase in shared child custody arrangements, there are an increasing number of women who are stepmothers. Many women express positive aspects of being a stepmother, however, stepmother reports and stepfamily researchers acknowledge there are some challenges with taking on the stepmother role. For example, there is evidence that negative stories, portrayals and stereotypes about stepmothers exist in society such as the ‘wicked stepmother’ in fairy tales. There is, however, uncertainty about what influence, if any, these stories and portrayals may have had on stepmother’s sense of self, and their stepmother experiences.
This study is, therefore, exploring stepmothers’ awareness and perceptions of stepmother portrayals and stereotypes. It aims to understand if, and how societal images and stereotypes may have affected women’s sense of self, behaviour and experience as a stepmother. It is intended that the results of this study will contribute to the body of knowledge which is available to guide parents and stepparents in stepfamilies.
We would love to hear from you if you are a woman who is currently in a de facto relationship or married to a partner who has biological children from a former relationship. Your stepchild/stepchildren will be under the age of 18 and are living with you on a full-time or part-time basis. You may also have your own children from a previous relationship, and/or have a child born from your current relationship.
One hundred stepmothers will be recruited for this study which involves the completion of an anonymous online questionnaire. The questionnaire will take 20 minutes to complete. The results of this study will be analysed and used for the purpose of completing a doctoral thesis. It is also expected the results will be used for publication in an academic journal.
There is the possibility that a second part to this study may be added. This would involve conducting a brief telephone interview with about 10 women to understand more about their experiences of stepmother stereotypes. If you wish to put your name down for this study, you will be given an email address at the end of this questionnaire. Once you have completed the questionnaire you can contact me and your name will be put on a list of possible participants for the second study. Please be assured that from your email, we will not be able to tell which questionnaire was yours, and so your responses and identity will remain annonymous.
There are no known risks caused by participating in this study. However, if participants wish to talk more about their experiences as a stepmother then they may like to contact Parent Help Line 0800 472 7368.
I would like women to take part in this research but they are under no obligation to do so. This questionnaire is anonymous, and therefore, by completing the questionnaire participants are giving their consent for their responses to be included in this study. This anonymity means that participants’ responses cannot be withdrawn from the study once the questionnaire has been completed.
Participants will not be asked to provide any personal identifying information (such as name, address, telephone number, email address) about themselves or their family members. When writing the results of this study, any personal identifiers (such as age, occupation, number of stepchildren) will be removed to prevent individuals from being identified. All the information that is collected in this questionnaire is kept in a secure, locked facility at the University of Auckland for 10 years. Only the researchers will have access to the information that participants have given in the study.
APPROVED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND HUMAN PARTICIPANTS ETHICS COMMITTEE ON 22nd June 2012 for 3 years, Reference Number 8307