Types of communication triads perceived by young-adult stepchildren in established stepfamilies

Leslie A. Baxter, Dawn O. Braithwaite, Leah E. Bryant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


This study was an analysis of the kinds of residential parent-stepparent-stepchild triadic communication structures expressed in interviews with 50 college-aged children from established stepfamilies. In an interpretive analysis of the interview transcripts, four communication structures were identified. In the linked triad the stepchild relied on indirect communication with the stepparent through his or her residential parent. The outsider triad was characterized by the stepchild communicating primarily with the residential parent with limited awareness of interdependence with the stepparent. In the adult-coalition triad the stepchild perceived that the residential parent and stepparent had formed a coalition, leading to cautious and distrustful communication with both adults. The complete triad featured the stepchild experiencing a “real family” with open communication with both the residential parent and the stepparent. Contributions of studying stepfamilies from the perspective of triadic communication structures versus stepfamily dyads are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-400
Number of pages20
JournalCommunication Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2006


  • Family Systems Theory
  • Stepchildren
  • Stepfamily Structures
  • Triangulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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