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in the respondent’s descriptions of dichotomy that continued in their stepfamily, so that biological parent/child alignments continued to take precedence over the emotional alignment of the stepcouple. A change in beliefs also evolved from either partner’s real or perceived need to emotionally protect the biological child from the stepparent. When one’s partner rejected one’s child, the resulting protection by that parent overruled the couple’s bond.

Abandonment/Detachment. Two of the attachment injury marker categories, Abandonment and Detachment, were combined into one category for this analysis, as their descriptors overlapped one another in the data. The two markers emerged as two sides of the same conceptual coin. For example, marital separation was experienced as abandonment to the individual left behind but was interpreted as detachment for the one who threatened to leave. Similarly, one could experience detachment as the result of feeling abandoned.

Pivotal Events. These were “change events,” experienced as a defining event or point in time for the respondents. It was different from other “Change of Belief” events as it was experienced as more precipitous, rather than insidious, with a “before/after” quality to it. Respondents described a given situation one way before the Pivotal Event, and experienced it differently after the Pivotal Event. It was a salient marker for a significant event that strongly signaled an attachment injury.

Markers of attachment injury unique to stepcouples

Markers of attachment injury were unique to stepcouples if they signaled events that were related to problems specific to the experiences of couples in stepfamilies; typically, these were problems related to loss and loyalty conflicts specific to stepfamily formation. Specifically, these markers referred to attachment injury occurring due to problems related to stepparenting, rather than just re-partnering. For example, an attachment injury unique to stepcouples would be a stepmother’s reported experience of hurt due to perceiving her partner’s usually aligning with his biological children in their disagreements with her household rules. In contrast, an attachment injury not considered unique to stepcouple problems might be an expressed feeling of painful loss due the spouse’s perceived overt longing for a former partner. This would not be considered a loss issue unique to a stepcouple, as the genesis of the injury does not involve “step” issues (i.e., children) even though they do clearly relate to re-partnering.


The literature regarding case study research holds no recommendation for a specific or optimal number of cases in multiple-case study research (Moon & Trepper, 1996). Originally, five to ten cases meeting the selection criteria were to be selected for analysis. This number would provide substantial data for both breadth and depth of analysis, in a manageable period of time.

Ultimately, thirteen respondents signed consent forms; of these, 11 were from the SAA site, and 2 contacted the researcher through word-of-mouth. Nine respondents


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