Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

“You’re not my Real Mom!” Biological Vs. Socially Constructed Motherhood: A Discursive Analysis of Childless Stepmother Blogs on Identity

“You’re not my Real Mom!” Biological Vs. Socially Constructed Motherhood: A Discursive Analysis of Childless Stepmother Blogs on Identity

Nicole Mullins

50% marriages end in divorce within the first 7 years; of those whose marriages fail, 75% remarry, with men at the vanguard.  As a result, outside women, many without biological children, are being introduced into the pre-established family unit as stepmothers, an ambiguous and otherized role.  Drawing on previous research on gender in the American bilateral kinship structure, kinship terminology, as well as Bourdieu’s theory of the economics of linguistic exchanges, this paper seeks to answer questions regarding a childless stepmother’s sense of inclusion and self-worth in the micro-group of the blended family through conducting a discourse analysis of several step-mothering blogs.  This paper also seeks to answer questions concerning women in stepmother roles on the macro-cultural scale by engaging with past work regarding the use of categorization to construct cultural models of womanhood, motherhood, and step-motherhood.  Blog posts written by childless stepmothers to offer advice to others in similar positions reveal that not only do these women feel their identity is altered upon becoming a stepmother but it is also one that is constantly shifting due to the lack of established kinship status within the blended family resulting in conflict, anxiety, and a lack of power within the familial group.  Further affecting the positionality of stepmothers within the blend family are cultural models which link womanhood to biological motherhood in a “violent mothering hierarchy” which places the socially constructed childless stepmothers at the bottom.

April 12, 2021 - Posted by | abstract


  1. The psychology of stepmothers and children with stepmothers would be really interesting. I’m sure there is some of that mixed into the analysis at some point. The blog aspect is really interesting, these stepmothers are creating their own cohort of people that they can relate to and figure out issues together. Looking forward to reading the article!

    Comment by Jenna H | April 23, 2021 | Reply

  2. This is such an interesting topic. I have recently been thinking about the feelings childless stepmothers can experience when figuring out how they fit into a pre-established family unit. This topic is one I personally feel is deserving of specific focus since I have not come across literature that centers on the experience of stepmothers solely. I also think studying a blog is a great idea since it provides a window directly into the lived experiences of these women.

    Comment by Mariah McClendon-Smith | April 28, 2021 | Reply

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