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This study searched for markers of attachment injury by exploring stepcouple relationships with individual respondents. The analysis also considered whether or not the markers were related to problems unique to stepfamilies.

Markers of Attachment Injury

Seven markers for attachment injury were examined in the interview data. These included: Irresolvable Problems; Betrayal of Trust; Questionable Partner Dependability; Change in Perception of Partner; Change of Belief About Partner; Abandonment; and Detachment. The final analysis combined several of these constructs, so that the markers for attachment injury were categorized as: Irresolvable Problems; Abandonment and Detachment; Change of Belief About Partner and Pivotal Events. Each marker category contained sub-categories, called descriptors, which were events or relational processes that respondents used to illustrate their relationships.

Summarized below are the markers for attachment injury and their descriptors:

Table 4.3 – Attachment Injury Markers and Their Descriptors

Irresolvables

Change of Belief

Abandonment/Detachment

Pivotal Event

Betrayed trust

Rejection of/by partner

Dependability questioned

Coalitions

Change in perception Change of heart Lying/Manipulation Dichotomous view

“Outsider” Pursue/withdraw Partner non-responsive Divorce/separation

Extreme language Arguments Pervasive/chronic

“Before/after”

Rejection of/protect child Each respondent described some of the markers of attachment injury. Most of these markers occurred in a context specifically attributable to the stepfamily status. Every respondent mentioned either threat of, or actual, separation or filing for divorce, in the present relationship. In all but one case, the threats of divorce or separation were specifically attributable to stepfamily problems.

Table 4.4 - Respondents’ Descriptors for Markers of Attachment Injury*

1

Irresolvables stepparenting/discipline

Change in Belief About Partner ex-wife/re: children

Abandonment/ Detachment ex-wife/re: children

“old hurts” spouse filed divorce No discussion re:

reject/protect children spouse filed divorce No discussion re:

spouse filed divorce No discussion re:

reconciliation

reconciliation

Pivotal Events

reconciliation

spouse filed div. No discussion re: reconciliation

2

reject/protect children

H left for a week

H left for a week

pervasive/chronic

reject/protect children

H non-responsive

withdrawal of spouse

pursue/withdraw rejection of/by partner

H left for week

  • *

    descriptors in bold type indicate “directly attributable to stepfamily status”

26

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