Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Communication Studies

First Advisor

Fran C. Dickson, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Roy Wood

Third Advisor

Mary Claire Morr-Serewicz


Communication, Coparenting, Grounded theory, Narrative, Remarriage, Stepfamily


The term coparenting implies a bioparental dyad that often excludes the stepparent's role in sharing parenting across joint-custody households. Focusing solely on this dyad also precludes gaining an understanding of how stepfamily couples manage together the communication and sharing of parental responsibilities with the parent(s) in the shared children's other home. In a departure from this bioparental dyad-focused approach, this study locates the stepfamily couple at the center of an inquiry into managing coparenting across households. This mixed methods design study included in-depth interviews of 32 stepfamily couples whose narratives about coparenting were analyzed using grounded theory methods. Forty-one percent of stepparents engage in direct coparenting communication, sometimes manifested as the coactive approach identified in this study. Stepfamily couples also involve the stepparent indirectly in coparenting communication, through the conferred and consultative approaches. As well, the couples' narratives about coparenting identify them as either united, where they share the experience, or divided, where coparenting is reserved exclusively for the bioparent to manage. The stepfamily couples' narratives about significant coparenting experiences revealed that they experience and make sense of coparenting as 1) struggling, 2) coping, or 3) thriving. No significant relationship was found between marital satisfaction and experiencing coparenting as strugglers, copers or thrivers. Grounded theory analysis of these narratives also reflects the four dichotomous dimensions of 1) regard-disregard, 2) decency-duplicity, 3) facilitation-interference, and 4) accommodation-inflexibility. Significant incidents located along these dimensions contribute to the stepfamily couples' identification as struggling, coping, or thriving in coparenting. Experiences on the extreme ends of the dichotomous dimensions generate positive and negative turning points for the coparenting interactions and relationships. As well, experiences on the negative end of the dimensional poles can present challenges for the stepfamily couples. Finally, a synthesis of the findings related to the dichotomous dimensions generates a theory of shared parenting values expectancy.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Andrea L. Smith Sisk


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

222 p.


Communication, Individual & Family Studies

Included in

Communication Commons