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Understanding the Step-sibling Relationship Through Bibliometric-visualization and Narrative Analysis

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Understanding the Step-sibling Relationship Through Bibliometric-visualization and Narrative Analysis

Understanding the Step-sibling Relationship Through
Bibliometric-visualization and Narrative Analysis
Devina Ratna Anggita1, Costrie Ganes Widayanti2, Kartika Sari Dewi3,*
1,2,3 Family Empowerment Center (PPK) Faculty of Psychology Universitas Diponegoro, Semarang Central Java,
Indonesia 50275
*Corresponding author: 3ksdewi@lecturer.undip.ac.id
ABSTRACT
The study aims to reveal the dynamics of step-sibling relationship and its acceptance in families whose parents
remarried after divorce. The study implemented qualitative systematic review research method to study on step-
siblings from 2000 to 2020 (n =19 corpus; range of participants =11-33 years old). The corpus protocol used PRISMA
diagrams, and the mapping was using PoP7 and VOS viewer software. The results of the bibliometric-visualization
analysis revealed that eight large clusters were found in the study of step-sibling and remarriage families. Step-sibling
studies were associated with family functions, processes, feelings, and family images, but not directly with studies on
parental divorce and remarriage. While the narrative analysis explained qualitatively that the form of a step-sibling
relationship affected conflict development in post-divorce remarried families. Step-sibling relationship was influenced
by the child's acceptance of new family. The factors influencing the child’s acceptance of the new family structure
were related to need fulfilment, age, sex, and intrapsychic condition.
Keywords: step-sibling relationship, divorced family, remarriage.
1. INTRODUCTION
Changes in family structures and family relations
have been reported in several studies
[1][2][3][4][5][6]. The presence of step-siblings can
form different relationships within blended families
[7][8]. Step-sibling refers to individuals who are the
children of remarried couple [9]. The number of
children who do not live with their biological parents
due to divorce has increased [8][10][11]. Study on
half-sibling has shown that 75% children living with
remarried parents has at least one full-sibling, and
approximately 1/3 step-children living with step-
family have step-sibling [12].
Relationships shown between full-siblings and
step-siblings vary according to their emotional
closeness, in which step-siblings are found more
emotionally distant than full-siblings [9]. The various
forms of relationship between siblings are the
caregiver relationship, buddy relationship, critical
relationship, rivalry relationship, and uninvolved
relationship [13].
Compared to full-siblings, the relationships
between step-siblings are assumed to be distant and
unsupportive [14][15]. Adapting to a new role of
step-siblings can be challenging for some children,
which potentially raises tensions amongst them and
between children and their step-parents [9][16]. This
may sometimes exclude them from regarding the
others as siblings and family. Negative influences
described as the long-term impact on the children are,
among others, the emotional and social relationship
problems when they reach adulthood [11][17]. These
consequences suggest that children experience
relationship complexity of new family system,
particularly when parent with whom they live with
decides to remarry and when they have step-siblings
[17].
This study aims: (1) to map related studies on
step-sibling linked to post-divorce remarried family,
(2) to describe step-sibling relationships and their
acceptance of their new family. Studies on step-
Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, volume 530
Proceedings of the International Conference on Psychological Studies (ICPSYCHE 2020)
Copyright © 2021 The Authors. Published by Atlantis Press SARL.
This is an open access article distributed under the CC BY-NC 4.0 license -http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/. 236
family setting using children perspective offer an
insight that remarried family influences children’s
wellbeing and may potentially cause tension for
children [12]. Hanson et al [12] point out that
children need to adjust to step-family life. Sibling
relationships should be characterised by mutual
relationship with one another [13], however, such
relationship is likely to be overlooked within
remarried family structure, and (3) to find alternatives
for positive step-sibling relationships within
remarried family.
2. METHOD
As previously stated, we created maps of “step-
sibling” and “remarried family in post-divorce”
topics. The science maps were created using the
VOSviewer software that has been extensively
utilised within the field of psychology
[18][19][20][21]. The scientific mapping was created
by using overlay visualisation and density
visualisation. The overlay visualisation aimed to help
authors identify related study topics based on
citatons, sub-topic clusters, and related sub-topics.
Density visualisation helped describe the most
investigated sub-topics within research of the most
citated article publications [22].
We also used Harish’s Publish software or Perish
7 (PoP7) software to extract and select articles that
met our inclusive criteria. The study comprised two
phases: Phase 1 identified all articles published
between 2000 and 2020 related to topic of “step-
sibling” and “acceptance”, “interpersonal
relationship”, and “communication” in their title or
abstract. Phase 2 employed narrative analysis using a
contextual approach as a synthetic process focusing
on research question [23]. We included inclusive
criteria as follows:1) articles published in journals/
books/ theses; 2) containing “step-siblings” and
“acceptance, relationship, and communication”
topics; and 3) published either in Indonesian or
English. Articles using systematic/ literature review
studies, dealt with parenting topic, were not under
category of psychology, and were incomplete in
terms of missing identity and body parts, were
excluded. The search involved online resources, such
as Google Scholar, Scopus, Science Direct, Pro
Quest, and EBSCO. The Google Scholar was selected
in this study because of its reputation as ‘free’
publication and citation resources [24]. We also
employed offline resource using the PRISMA flow
diagram [25], as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1. PRISMA Flow Diagram
3. RESULT
3.1 Research Trend 2000-2020
The search using POP7 resulted in 173
publications related to step-sibling relationships in
remarried family. The participants were 1,000
children aged 11-21 years old; more than 100
children were young adults (22-33 years old); and
130 families in 19 corpus. The results of our analysis
are visually presented in Figures 2, 3 and 4. In each
map, more frequent terms are presented larger than
less frequently occuring terms. Figure 2 shows that
the more frequent topics can be identified using
colour and name size, such as divorce and remarriage
related to step-children, adult age, and education. The
terms step-sibling relationships in remarried family
are identified as less frequent topics. The
visualisation also describes that three terms are
frequently applied for step-sibling: step-sibling, step-
brother, and half-sibling.
Figure 2. Bibliometric-visualisation map of
step-sibling on post-divorce remarried families
The local map (Figure 3) shows that the terms are
divided into eight clusters, identifiable by different
Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, volume 530
237
colours, including terms with smaller nodes,
explained as follows: 1) Orange: divorce and
marriage, related to dad, stress, young adult stepchild,
family transition and adjustment; 2) Dark pink:
family issues, competition, and success; 3) Green:
step-brother, related to brother/ sister, step-family
member, cultural context, law, emotional expression,
complex stepfamily, and reconstituted family; 4)
Dark purple: Education, in relation to examination,
legal, step-relationship; 5) Blue: Impact, age,
complexity; 6) Brown: Adult, history,
communication, step-family, family change; 7) Light
blue: Risk, development, and stranger; 8) light pink:
close relationship, intact family, and adolescent.
3a
3b
Figure 3. The local map of step-sibling research
published between 2000-2020
Figure 3b provides a descriptive information that
step-sibling issue was the most prominent research
topic between 2005-2015. Step-sibling became the
most prominent topic between 2005 and 2015. The
information revealed that studies on step-sibling was
indirectly linked to studies on divorce and
remarriage, and predominantly focused on step-
children. This could explain that studies on children
in stepfamily relationship were primarily discussed
using an adult perspective. Studies using perspectives
of children as part of divorced and remarried parents
were limited. However, the trend changes between
2015 and 2020 (marked by orange to red) to research
publications about divorced families, legal problems
and family history, including communication. Studies
on step-sibling focused on step-family functioning,
feeling, and family drawing, as shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4. The prominent topics on step-
sibling between 2000 and 2020
3.2 Themes of Step-sibling studies
In the second phase of this study, we selected
articles published as stated in Figure 1 and other
resources. The selection resulted in 19 research
corpus, which comprised 13 journal articles, two
books, one dissertation, one master thesis, and two
bachelor theses. Using a narrative analysis, themes
derived from step-sibling studies were identified, as
provided in Table 1.
Table 1. Corpus themes
Themes
Sub
Themes
Corpus
Relationship
Influencing
factors
a. Internal
b. External
[8]; [10]; [26];
[27]; [28]; [29];
[30]; [31]; [32];
[33]
Communication
forms
[27]; [28]; [34];
[35]; [36]; [37]
Impact
[8]; [32]; [33];
[38]; [38]; [40];
[41]
Acceptance
Influencing
factors
a. Internal
b. External
[27]; [35]; [42]
Well-being
[30]; [31]; [40];
[41]
3.2.1 Relationship
Most of the study corpus clearly mentioned that
step-sibling relationship was negatively described
Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, volume 530
238
[8][10][26][33][34][36][38]. The negative
relationship was influenced by several factors: (a)
inability to accept step-sibling, (b) feeling of
disfavour, (c) envy, (d) fear, (e) anxiety, (f) parental
discrimination. Some conflictual relationship could
affect children’s psychological condition and
behaviour, such as showing: (a) impoliteness, (b)
externalising and internalising behaviour, (c)
decreased wellbeing level, (d) academic problem, (e)
social behaviour problem, and (f) aggresive
behaviour [8][30][31][32][34][35][39][40][41].
Some studies explained positive step-sibling
relationships could happen when step-siblings were
(a) young, (b) willing to share, (c) cooperative, (d)
creating companionship, (e) active in self adjustment,
and (f) having parents who were able to build a sense
of togetherness [8][10][27][28]. Positive step-sibling
relationship developed when (1) psychological,
economic, and moral aspects were fulfilled, (2)
favour and respect are developed, (3) age gap was
small, (4) contact was frequent, (5) personality was
built, and (6) intrapsychic factors were absent
[10][26][29][31][42]. This showed that positive
relationship is not only influenced by age gap and
personality, but also referred to parental intervention
by fulfilling the childrens needs without showing
favouritism or partiality in treatment. Children’s
interaction quality had a significant role in creating
positive step-sibling relationships [43].
Further, corpus explained correlation between
step-sibling relationships and quality of family
interaction and communication [28][36][37]. The
terms used for greeting and disclosing personal and
family secrets in step-family were solutions to
develop positive relationship. For example, the use of
the term “my sibling” represented positive
relationship. When the term “my step-sibling” was
used, it meant neutral or negative relationship. The
reasons for using the term “my step-sibling” related
to experiencing challenge and awkwardness, reducing
tension, respecting biological family, and
maintaining life balance of step-family. Therefore,
individuals became more comfortable to disclose
secrets to their biological family, but not to step-
family due to their close relationship to their
biological family. Parent’s role became significant
when rules provided opportunity for members of
step-family to interact. Another finding related to
communication pointed out communication distance
amongst step-siblings although they accepted one
another. Having a positive relationship to all family
members, either to biological or step-family, was the
key to maintain harmony in mixed family
relationship.
3.2.2 Acceptance
Acceptance towards step-siblings was shown to be
more positive on girls than on boys [42]. Specifically,
a change within step-family system, as described by
corpus 8, happened as a result of the destruction of
previous family system and demand for adjustment in
new system, which caused step-siblings had to adjust
with new family. Family relationships could be
influenced by their children relationships. Obstacles
came to family when a child refused the presence of
new parent and family member, a child frequently
lived with grandparents, and custody were at both
parents. A child’s acceptance affected his/her
adjustment to his/her new family [31]. A negative
psychological adjustment between step-siblings made
a considerable influence on psychological wellbeing,
academic achievement, and social behaviour
[31][40].
The outcome of a positive acceptance linked to the
individual’s psychological wellbeing [30][31][40].
The child’s wellbeing was influenced by his/ her
relationship with his/her step-siblings and the father’s
role. Step-siblings often experienced discrimination
within a step-family. Parent’s marital status had a
significant role in adolescence’s wellbeing.
Adolescents who lived with their mothers post-
divorce had a higher life satisfaction when their
mother remarried than when their mother remained
single without new relationship.
3.3 Discussion
This study sought to understand trend of step-
sibling research within the last two decades (between
2000 and 2020) and the impact of the change on
family structure using a science mapping approach.
Two main arguments have been posited to describe
step-sibling relationships in remarried family. First,
the presence of step-sibling may cause significant life
adaptation. Second, step-sibling relationship quality
may affect relationship pattern in family life. As a
system, family has to be viewed as a whole,
structured, goal-oriented, balanced, bound,
subsystemic, equifinal and equipotential, which can
affect relationship quality [44]. Divorce and
remarriage create a change in family structure, which
requires family to build a functional new system that
help each family member to adapt.
Limited studies were undertaken to raise children
voice in relation to divorced and remarried family,
realising that children have to make adjustment with
new family structure, such as the presence of step-
parent and step-siblings. Children potentially
experience longer trauma and stress compared to
Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, volume 530
239
parents when it comes to parent/couple loss [17][45].
Children also find difficulty in adjusting to new
family, especially when they are in the ages between
5 and 14 years [17]. This could explain that
attachment figure is critical during nine years of
developments [46]. It means that children are likely
to develop problem when having step-mother or step-
father after nine years of age. Children who have
experienced security, care, guidance, and education
from their former family for a period of time have
difficulty to accept the presence of step-family
members. As a result, relationships amongst step-
siblings in this study are characterised as negative
and conflictual. A step-family relationship tends to be
distant and conflictual and remarriage potentially
leads to conflictual relationships [16][47].
Children show different acceptance level due to
the presence of step-siblings. They have to adapt with
new life and rules that enable them to live with step-
family. Children’s adaptibility to new family can
influence their psychological consequences:
academic achievement, self-esteem, and wellbeing
[48][49]. Likewise, studies stated that children from
divorced families are more likely to develop high
stress level, low self-esteem, and low family
satisfaction [49][50]. Less cohesive relationship with
step-family and step-sibling tends to have negative
effect such as competition [11]. What is interesting
from this study though, poor step-sibling relationship
in a remarried family has a significant role in
relationship pattern within family members. This
indicates a correlation between children adjustment
and step-sibling relationship quality. Children with
positive step-sibling relationships show a more
positive caregiving relationship. When children enjoy
their relationships with their step-siblings, they
develop a buddy relationship. However, when their
relationships are dominated by conflicts and fights,
they are more likely to build a critical relationship
[13]. This shows that a step-sibling’s relationship
quality significantly influence their socio-emotional
development [43]. Children’s perceptions about the
type of their relationships and environmental supports
help them to adapt, accept and understand their
situation in a positive way.
Parenting technique can be utilised to help
children understand about their situation. Step-sibling
relationships are considerably influenced by parents’
role in developing a sense of togetherness within their
new family system, which minimises conflictual
relationships that were believed to be unavoidable
during early remmariage [51][17][47]. Building an
effective communication is key to develop closeness
and attachment [52][53]. This study indicates that
parent’s role in developing new family-like
interaction and communication system becomes a
centre in creating positive relationships [51].
Interpersonal relationships are more likely to depend
on the effort to build communication and character of
each family member, rather than on the type of
sibling characteristics (e.g. full-sibling or step-
sibling), which are characterised by openness,
empathy, support, and equality [54].
3.4 Conclusion
The bibliometric-visualisation mapping studies on
step-siblings are not directly linked to divorced and
remarried family. In general, step-siblings’ research
describe step-sibling relationships as negative and
conflictual. Children adjustment influenced how they
develop relationship with their step-siblings. Efforts
to build positive relationship with family members
become critical and parents have significant role in
developing such relationship.
Step-sibling relationship is impactful to remarried
family’s atmosphere. Children need assistance from
close-tied family members during acceptance
process, either to step-family or to step-sibling within
their new family system. Further exploration on step-
sibling interactions in remarried family is needed to
ensure the fulfilment of their basic needs which are
potentially neglected after parent’s divorce or when
remarried couple has new children. Acknowledging
these relationship complexity should encourage us to
understand them.
AUTHORS’ CONTRIBUTIONS
Devina Ratna Anggita made a major contribution
on the conception and data organisation. Kartika Sari
Dewi contributed to the conception, data analysis and
discussion. Costrie Ganes Widayanti contributed to
the data analysis and interpretation. All authors
contributed to the final revision and approved on the
final version for publication.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Faculty of Psychology Universitas Diponegoro,
Semarang, Indonesia for the research funding
No. 33/UN7.5.11.2/HK/2020.
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The Consequences of Divorce for Adults and Children. Published by : National Council on Family Relations. Linked references are available on JSTOR for this article : The Consequences of Divorce for Adults and Children
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