School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling (EdD)


Christopher Garner


father, non-resident biological father, co-fathering, stepfamily


Counseling | Social and Behavioral Sciences


The purpose of this phenomenological study is to understand the experiences of stepfathers when both the non-resident biological father (NRBF) and stepfather are involved in the parenting efforts. This study will explore the stepfather’s co-fathering experiences with the NRBF and its overall effect on stepfamily functioning and marital satisfaction. The theories guiding this study are the family stress theory and the family systems theory. These two theories will help to explain how stressful events, such as stepfamily formation and the presence of the NRBF, disrupt the family’s equilibrium and challenge the stepfamily to find adaptive ways to reestablish their balance. Stepfathers were recruited and participated in a semi-structured interview, in which they discussed the challenges they experienced with co-fathering with a NRBF. The results of the study showed that stepfathers had four unmet needs which prevented a healthy co-fathering relationship with the NRBF: (a) a need to be accepted, (b) a need to establish authority, (c) a need for communication, and (d) a need for guidance. This study paves the way for premarital and postmarital stepfamily educational programs which may increase the possibility for fathers to engage in a collaborative approach to parenting.

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