Roper, S. and Capdevila, R. (2007) Experiences of step-mothering: a Q methodological study. Psychology of Women Section Annual Conference 2007 (The British Psychological Society POWS), Cumberland Lodge, Windsor, 18-20 July 2007. London: British Psychological Society. 1754-8837.
Stepfamilies are not a new phenomenon but, with high divorce rates, they are now common and more likely to be formed following a relationship breakdown rather than death (Pryor, 2004). Stepmothers today contend with the wicked stepmother myth, gendered notions of parenting, the idealization of motherhood, and discourses of the biological nuclear family as the ideal against which other forms may be seen as deviant. The limited previous research suggests greater stress for stepmothers than stepfathers (Nielsen, 1999). This study used Q methodology to explore the range of subjective experiences of stepmothers. A diverse sample of 29 stepmothers completed the 61-item Q sort. This generated nine factors or distinct views of the experience of stepmothering. Each was analysed, named and presented as a narrative account. The results suggest greater variety and complexity of experience than is indicated by previous studies. The discussion focuses on the relevance and impact of the wicked stepmother myth, gendered notions of parenting, the idealization of motherhood, and discourses of the biological nuclear family to these varied perspectives