Perceptions of stepfathers’ obligations to financially support stepchildren

Document Type

Journal Article


Springer New York LLC

Place of Publication

United States


School of Arts and Humanities




Originally published as: Maclean, M.J., Drake, D., Mckillop, D. (2016). Perceptions of stepfathers’ obligations to financially support stepchildren. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 1-12. Available here.


The perceived fairness of financial arrangements following divorce and repartnering have significant ramifications for social policy and family well-being, yet relatively little is known about public opinion regarding the extent of stepparents’ financial responsibility towards stepchildren’s living costs. This study investigated perceptions of stepfathers’ obligation to financially support stepchildren using quantitative and qualitative methods, and built on previous research by including contextual variables to explore the processes underpinning judgements of kinship responsibilities using a distributive justice framework. Data from a community sample in Western Australia (N = 200) showed a large amount of variability in responses, however most participants believed stepfathers should contribute financially to some extent. Significant reductions in perceived obligations were associated with both cohabiting relationship status and maternal employment, but not with the presence of prior child support commitments by the stepfather. This study highlights the heterogeneity and complexity of attitudes around this issue and associated social policies.