Cohesion, adaptability, and adjustment in high and low consensus stepfamilies

Barbara Merling, Fordham University


The study focused on the relationship between consensus regarding parental role responsibilities and family cohesion and adaptability in stepfamilies. A volunteer sample of 40 stepfamilies participated in the study. Each family member (natural parent, stepparent, and child) completed the Family Adaptability and Cohesion Scale II (FACES II) and the Interfamily Perception Scale (IFPS). The FACES II measured family adaptability and cohesion. The IFPS measured consensus among the family members with respect to parental roles and responsibilities.^ Family adaptability refers to the ability of the family system to be flexible and to change. The FACES II classifies families as falling into one of four categories of adaptability, ranging from rigid (very low) to structured (low to moderate) to flexible (moderate to high) to chaotic (very high). Of these, the structured and flexible levels are considered balanced, while the rigid and chaotic levels are unbalanced.^ Family cohesion refers to emotional bonding, boundaries, and decision-making. The FACES II classifies families as disengaged (very low), separated (low to moderate), connected (moderate to high), or enmeshed (very high). The separated and connected levels are considered balanced.^ It was hypothesized that high consensus stepfamilies would be significantly more likely than low consensus stepfamilies to be characterized by balanced adaptability and by balanced cohesion.^ Chi-square tests indicated no significant relationship between consensus and family cohesion, but did show a significant relationship between consensus and family adaptability. High consensus stepfamilies were more likely to be characterized by unbalanced adaptability, while low consensus stepfamilies tended to demonstrate balanced adaptability.^ The findings were interpreted as suggesting that in high consensus stepfamilies all members are clear regarding role responsibilities, so that there is rarely a need to alter, clarify, or renegotiate these roles. Thus there is little need for adaptation. In stepfamilies where role responsibilities are less clear, family members must remain flexible and adaptable. Such stepfamilies would tend to demonstrate problem-solving skills, assertiveness, and democratic styles of control and discipline. ^

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Merling, Barbara, "Cohesion, adaptability, and adjustment in high and low consensus stepfamilies" (1989). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8918452.