Methods: Data came from the Stepfamily Experience Project (STEP), a retrospective study conducted in 2013. The sample consisted of a nationally-based quota sample of emerging adults, who were raised in a stepfamily from ages 8 to 18 (n= 1,593). Participants who identified as White (n=855) and American Indian (n= 340) were included in this study (n= 1,195). For the purposes of this study, individuals who identified as American Indian only (n= 169) and individuals who identified as multiracial American Indian (n= 171) were combined (n= 340). The independent variable consisted of two latent variables, poor coparenting and positive coparenting, which was measured by a revised coparenting scale (α= 0.92). The quality of the stepfamily experience was used as the dependent variable, which was measured by a revised stepfamily quality scale (α= 0.91). Control variables included: sex, age, and stepfamily income. Ordinary least squares regression, correcting for omitted variable bias, collinearity, and heteroscedasticity, was used for the analyses.
Results: Findings revealed that post-separation coparenting among American Indian stepfamilies had a significant effect on the child’s stepfamily experience (b= 0.24, p<.001). These results accounted for 12% of the overall variance of stepfamily quality. It was found that income, used as a control variable, was significant, which indicates that stepfamily income has a positive effect on stepfamily experience (b=0.05, p<.05). When comparing post-separation coparenting between American Indian stepfamilies and the general population, no significant difference was found.
Conclusions and Implications: The results indicate that stepfamily experience, for an American Indian child, was strongly impacted by coparenting between the divorced parents. Clinicians, as a result of this finding, should emphasize to divorced parents the importance of having a healthy relationship with each other. Clinicians should also stress that this relationships directly impacts child and youth development. When compared to the general population, there is no significant difference in the impact of post-separation coparenting on American Indian stepfamilies. Although American Indian stepfamilies may differ in many ways from the general population, when working with this population, clinicians should use already established practices for coparenting that have been found effective among other racial groups.