Blood, sweat, and tears: Biological ties and self-investment as sources of positive illusions about children and stepchildren

Jonathan D. Cohen, Blaine Fowers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations


Positive illusions appear to be an important component of close relationships, including romantic and parenting relationships. Previous research suggests that parents hold unrealistically positive perceptions about their children, but it is unclear whether these illusions develop as a result of a biological tie or of adopting the parental role. This study investigated the source of positive parental illusions by examining whether stepparents engage in such illusions. If stepparents exhibit positive parental illusions, this would suggest that these illusions develop through the adoption of the parental role. The sample included 67 couples with a stepchild aged 3 to 13. Both biological parents and stepparents exhibited positive parental illusions, but these illusions were stronger in biological parents. Measures of the extent to which stepparents adopted the parental role were directly related to positive illusions about their stepchild. These findings suggest that positive parental illusions develop through the adoption of a parental role. Unrealistically positive perceptions of the parent-child relationship were the most important component of reported parenting satisfaction for both biological parents and stepparents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-59
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Divorce and Remarriage
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Dec 9 2004



  • Children of divorce
  • Positive parenting
  • Post divorce parenting
  • Stepparenting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Law

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