Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Development and Family Studies

Department name when degree awarded

Family and Human Development

Committee Chair(s)

Jay D. Schvaneveldt


Jay D. Schvaneveldt


This investigation assessed the relationship between adolescents of intact families and adolescents in reconstituted families with regard to the effects of perception of parental acceptance on the variables of self-esteem, academic performance, sex role identity, and use of substances. Observed differences between adolescents of intact and reconstituted families from a structural perspective, eliminating process variables, were also examined. Participants included two hundred fifty-six high school students in grades 9 through 12 in an overseas Department of Defense Dependent School (DoDDs). Questionnaires incorporated the measures of Perception of Parental Behavior Index; Rosenberg's Self-Esteem Survey; The Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI); questions on substance use; and self-reported grade point averages (GPA).

Major findings include (1) Adolescents living in an intact family (process variables excluded) evidenced significantly higher GPA scores than adolescents residing in a reconstituted (step-family) situation. However, with regard to the use of substances, sex role identification, and self-esteem, no differences emerged. (2) When the effects of parental acceptance were assessed, differences among adolescents of intact families and adolescents of reconstituted families emerged among the variables of femininity, self-esteem, and substance. In contrast, sex role identification, masculinity, self-esteem, substance use, and GPA were not found to be mediated by perception of parental acceptance. The lack of significant differences in self-esteem and substance use contrasted sharply with the findings among adolescents within intact families. (3) When positive perception of parental acceptance was evidenced across eight distinct family compositions of intact and reconstituted families, as opposed to negative perception, self-esteem scores were highest, irrespective of family structure.