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Most children who experience their parents' divorce also experience their custodial parent's remarriage. However, research has not addressed how patterns of courtship for remarriage influence the developing child and his or her relationships in the new family. This longitudinal study focuses on 57 remarried, stepfather families with a target child aged 9 to 13, using multimethod, multi-informant measures of child adjustment and parent-child relationships. Comparisons were made to determine whether the custodial mother's number of dating partners, remarriage courtship length, or the timing and sequence of typical courtship stages affected the child's adjustment and his or her relationships with the residential parents after remarriage. Results indicated that a longer time spent in a divorced, mother-custody household was associated with continuing difficulty in stepfather-stepchild relationships and lower levels of the child's social competence during the initial months following remarriage. In addition, children whose custodial mother cohabited before remarriage appeared to be more socially competent throughout the two years after remarriage, while also experiencing less negative family relationships. Assertions about the ideal timing of courtship for remarriage are challenged.


Originally published in Journal of Marriage and the Family. 1992. Volume 54. Issue 3. Pages 686-698.