Empty ritual: Young-adult stepchildren's perceptions of the remarriage ceremony

Leslie A. Baxter, Dawn O. Braithwaite, Jody Koenig Kellas, Cassandra LeClair-Underberg, Emily Lamb Normand, Tracy Routsong, Matthew Thatcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


This qualitative study investigated 80 young-adult stepchildren's talk about one of their parents' remarriage ceremony. The remarriage event was celebrated in six types of ritual enactments, five of which celebrated the couple's marriage and one of which was family-centered in its celebration of the beginning of the new stepfamily. Three factors led stepchildren to find the remarriage ceremony empty: (i) a ritual form that was too traditional or not traditional enough; (ii) a ritual enactment that failed to pay homage to either the stepchild's family of origin or the stepfamily as a unit; and (iii) a ritual enactment that failed to involve the stepchild prior to and during the ceremony. Results support the characteristics of empty rituals posited in ritual theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)467-487
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Family ritual
  • Relational dialectics
  • Remarriage ceremony
  • Stepfamily

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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