Former Stepparents’ Contact with Their Stepchildren after Mid-Life

Claire M. Noel-Miller, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Based on the life course and gendered practice perspectives, this study examines frequency of social contact between mid- to late-life stepparents and their stepchildren after stepparents’ marriage to their stepchildren’s biological parent has been dissolved through widowhood or divorce. Using five waves of panel data on stepparent-stepchild pairs from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS, N=12,947 stepchild-observations on 4,063 stepchildren belonging to 1,663 stepparents) spanning 10 years (1998-2008), I estimate ordered logit multilevel models predicting former stepparent-stepchild contact frequency. Results indicate that former stepparents have notably less frequent contact with their stepchildren than current stepparents, particularly following divorce. Widowed stepparents’ contact with their stepchildren diminishes gradually following union disruption whereas divorced stepparents’ contact frequency drops abruptly. Former stepfathers have less contact with their stepchildren than former stepmothers. Finally, I uncover evidence of the moderating role of (step)parents’ marriage length and stepparents’ number of biological children on widowed stepparent-stepchild contact frequency.

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Presented in Session 100: Family Ties and Well-Being over the Life Course