The very perplexed stepmother: Step motherhood and developing a healthy self-identity

Sonia Cann-Milland, Jane Southcott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This autoethnographic study unpacks Sonia’s experiences as a stepmother. Historically stepmothers are the evil, unkind villains in fairy tales. Most research about stepfamilies has deemed stepmotherhood to be ambiguous and stress-laden. This research explores how becoming a stepmother has impacted her evolving sense of self-identity. To do this we undertook an autoethnographic study of Sonia’s experiences. The use of authoethnographic method supports and challenges personal narrative. We reflected upon the specific situations that caused her to question, alter and sustain a healthy sense of self, so in turn she may create a safe and secure environment that supports healthy and ongoing connections within her stepfamily. We found that the growing pains of adjusting to a new role can lead stepmothers into positive self-discovery. Through this process it is vital that one remains true to one’s core self while provoking the development of self-identity within a newly constructed family form. This autoethnography offers insight to both stepfamilies and those researching and working with them to build a deeper understanding of the unique issues and experiences stepfamilies have which may be unexpected, complex, and diverse.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Pages (from-to)823-838
Number of pages16
JournalThe Qualitative Report
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2018


  • Auto-Ethnography
  • Self-Identity
  • Stepfamily
  • Stepmother

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