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Dissertation

Role reconstruction: Family constellation effects in stepsibling subsystems

20 December 1996

Abstract

Since the 1970's, researchers have noted and forecast a steady increase in the number of families expected to experience divorce. This increase has led to a rise in the rate of remarriage, leading ultimately to an increase in the number of children entering into stepsibling subsystems. Little is known about the developmental effects of step sibling relationships on role construction. Theories such as those advanced by Alfred Adler, Harry Stack Sullivan, and Jean Piaget view personality in terms of the roles individuals develop within a social context. The family is thought to be the earliest social context in which roles are constructed. This dissertation will draw from theoretical and empirical literature pertinent to role construction and family constellation in order to surmise some basic processes found in the stepsibling subsystem. Examining what happens to sibling roles as children enter into stepsibling subsystems wi1lhelp define a process of role reconstruction. It is speculated that role reconstruction is more likely to occur in situations where stepsiblings have similar ages, like psychological birth order vantages and parallel styles of achieving recognition. In many ways, role construction and role reconstruction are parallel processes. With the introduction of particular family constellation variables, often found in stepfamilies, role reconstruction becomes a unique developmental process.


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