Methods: Data were analyzed from the Stepfamily Experience Project (STEP) conducted in 2013. The data were collected using a survey created by researchers at Brigham Young University. Participants were recruited using a national quota sample based on United States Census records. Those who had lived in a stepfamily and were emerging adults ages 18 to 30 years old were eligible to participate in the survey.
Our primary dependent variable was depression and was measured using a previously shortened version of the CES-D scale. The independent variable was adjustment to stepfamily formation and was measured using an adapted form of the Relationship Evaluation Questionnaire (RELATE). This study included four control variables: age at stepfamily formation, gender, income, and racial/ethnic identity (Native American or non-Native American).
Results: Data were analyzed using a logistic regression to assess if adjustment to stepfamily formation predicted depression, and controlled for age at stepfamily formation, gender, income, and racial/ethnic identity (Native American or non-Native American). Adjustment to stepfamily formation was found to be a statistically significant predictor of depression when controlling for age at stepfamily formation, gender, income, and racial/ethnic identity (Native American or non-Native American). This study also found that being Native American was a statistically significant predictor for depression. Native Americans were 40% more likely to experience depressive symptoms.
Implications and Conclusions: The findings suggest developing more evidence-based treatments to help Native American individuals and families adjust more positively to stepfamily formation. On an individual level, it may be helpful for Native American children and adolescents to participate in therapy groups focused on positive adjustment to their stepfamily. Such groups could focus on teaching children relationship skills and how to cope with new stressors in their life. In addition, developing programs to help Native American parents within stepfamilies better adjust to new life stressors most likely will boost a family’s wellbeing. Native Americans value a close community, which suggests that involving community members might be useful for helping plan and organize these stepfamily programs. As more research emerges, effective interventions can be created to help Native American children and youth better adjust to stepfamily formation. Gaps still persist in existing stepfamily research among Native Americans but understanding the influence adjustment to stepfamily formation has on depression might help with future research and interventions when working within this population.