June 2005 // Volume 43 // Number 3 // Ideas at Work // 3IAW2

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Development of the Remarriage Belief Inventory for Researchers and Educators

The Remarriage Belief Inventory (RMBI) was designed to further elicit knowledge about the increased divorce risk for remarriages and to aid educators in program work with couples preparing for or living in stepfamilies. Utilizing a sample of 546 young adults, this article addresses the discriminant validity of the RMBI's five factors. The RMBI is an empirically validated questionnaire that can be used to assess an individuals' level of endorsement of five beliefs about remarriages and stepfamilies. For educators, the questionnaire is offered for application in prevention and intervention programs to raise awareness of beliefs among members of stepfamilies.

Brian J. Higginbotham
Graduate Research Assistant

Francesca Adler-Baeder
Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist

Auburn University/Alabama Cooperative Extension
Auburn, Alabama


Recent figures show that approximately half of marriages annually are remarriages for one or both partners, and the majority (approximately 65%) of those adults have children from a previous relationship, thus forming stepfamilies (e.g., Chadwick & Heaton, 1999). Overall, estimates are that half of Americans today are or will be in a step relationship in their lifetime (Larson, 1992). Thus, there is a great need for educators to offer programs and resources for stepfamilies, and this need will only increase.

There is also a need to expand the empirical knowledge base on processes in stepfamilies, because these families are comparatively understudied in family science (Coleman, Ganong, & Fine, 2000). The Remarriage Belief Inventory (RMBI) was designed for use (a) in research of couple functioning in stepfamilies in order to further elicit knowledge about the increased divorce risk for remarriages and (b) in program work with couples preparing for or living in stepfamilies.


It is estimated that between 55 and 60% of all remarriages will dissolve (Glick, 1989) compared to approximately 50% for first marriages (e.g., Waite & Gallagher, 2000). In the research on first marriages there is evidence to suggest that cognitions (e.g., expectations, beliefs, and attitudes) may contribute to marital dissolution. For example, the endorsement of particular expectations, which if/when they are not met, lead to frustration, difficulties in adjusting, and have a negative impact on marital satisfaction and stability (e.g., Eidelson & Epstein, 1982; Moller & Van Zyl, 1991).

There are a number of specific issues, beliefs, and expectations that are unique to and particularly salient in remarriages (Adler-Baeder & Higginbotham, 2004). These expectations appear to be influenced by the societal "norm" of first family functioning, which may be unrealistic in stepfamilies. Papernow (1987) offers a few examples, including:

The hope that the members of the new family will love each other in the way that members of biological families do; the conviction that this new spouse will be a better mother or father to these children than the ex-spouse; the wish that the new family will heal the hurts of the previous divorce or death; the fantasy that the couple's caring for each other will be experienced between stepparents and their stepchildren (p. 632).

Just as instruments that identify dysfunctional beliefs in first marriages have aided the researchers and practitioners who work with couples, a reliable and valid instrument that assesses remarriage beliefs can aid practitioners who provide remarriage and family life education. Specifically, educators can utilize the Remarriage Belief Inventory (RMBI) in programs to assist family members in identifying and discussing their individual expectations/beliefs about remarriage and stepfamilies. The study described here is an initial test of the RMBI's discriminant validity.


Item Selection and Refinement

To generate the items on the RMBI, a review of the empirical and clinical literature on stepfamily "myths" and "beliefs" was conducted, and a list was compiled. Five themes were identified, and several questions were developed that were expected to tap into each theme (n = 43): (a) History is unimportant, (b) Children are the priority, (c) Stepfamilies are second-class, (d) New partner is better than previous partner, and (e) Adjustment comes quickly.


Data for this study came from a sample of undergraduates attending a public university in the South. It was determined that young adults were an acceptable sample for discriminant validity testing because it is assumed that all adults have some belief or notion about how stepfamilies function based on their experiences within our society. Five hundred forty-six questionnaires were returned. The sample was predominately white (91%) and female (85%). The mean age was 20.5.


Five factors were confirmed using a principle component factor analysis with promax rotation. Eliminating items that cross-loaded or loaded less than .45 resulted in 24 items (see Appendix for RMBI items). The alpha reliability coefficient was .78. Each factor (a) satisfied Kaiser's (1958) criterion of eigen values greater than 1.00, (b) accounted for an appreciable percentage of total score variance, and (c) had items that principally loaded on one factor. Factor loadings are displayed in Table 1.

Table 1.
Factor Loadings from Factor Analyses of Remarriage Belief Inventory































































































Note. Principal Component Analysis. Promax rotation with Kaiser Normalization.

Factor 1: Quick adjustment--assumed stepparent authority and attachment
Factor 2: Partner is better than previous partner
Factor 3: Stepfamilies are second-class
Factor 4: Children are the priority over the couple relationship
Factor 5: History is unimportant


Despite the prevalence of remarriages and stepfamilies, relatively few empirically validated resources are available to Extension educators who provide remarriage and family life education. In research on marriages and families, the role of beliefs/expectations in promoting relationship quality and healthy family functioning is established (e.g., Fincham, Harold, & Gano-Phillips, 2000; Moller & Van Zyl, 1991). However, no measure exists to assess beliefs and expectations about remarriages and stepfamilies.

The study of the Remarriage Belief Inventory described here has resulted in an empirically validated questionnaire that can be used to assess an individuals' level of endorsement of five beliefs about remarriages and stepfamilies. Further work is planned to empirically assess the factorial structure of the RMBI with a remarried sample as well as the predictive nature of each set of beliefs on remarriage quality.

For educators, the questionnaire is offered for application in prevention and intervention programs to raise awareness of beliefs among members of stepfamilies. Educational applications include using the RMBI as a starter activity in family-life education classes on remarriages, as a self-assessment, or as a couple activity to promote communication and consensus on expectations regarding stepfamily functioning. In both program and research contexts, the RMBI can be utilized in efforts to strengthening remarriages and stepfamilies and to meet the needs of this ever-increasing population.


Adler-Baeder, F., & Higginbotham, B. (2004). Implications of remarriage and stepfamily formation for marriage education. Family Relations, 53, 448-458.

Chadwick, B. A., & Heaton, T. B. (1999). Statistical handbook on the American family (2nd ed.). Phoenix, AZ: Oryx.

Coleman, M., Ganong, L., & Fine, M. (2000). Reinvestigating remarriage: Another decade of progress. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 1288-1307.

Eidelson, R. J., & Epstein N. (1982). Cognition and relationship maladjustment: Development of a measure of dysfunctional relationship beliefs. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 50, 715-720.

Fincham, F. D., Harold, G. T., & Gano-Phillips, S. (2000). The longitudinal association between attributions and marital satisfaction: Direction of effects and role of efficacy expectations. Journal of Family Psychology, 14(2), 267-285.

Glick, P. (1989). Remarried families, stepfamilies, and stepchildren: A brief demographic analysis. Family Relations, 38, 24-27.

Kaiser, H. F. (1958). The varimax criterion for analytic rotation in factor analysis. Psychometrika, 24, 187-200.

Larson, J. (1992). Understanding stepfamilies. American Demographics, 14, 36-39.

Moller, A. T., & Van Zyl, P.D. (1991). Relationship beliefs, interpersonal perception, and marital adjustment. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 47, 28-33.

Papernow, P. L. (1987). Thickening the "middle ground" : Dilemmas and vulnerabilities of remarried couples. Psychotherapy, 24, 630-639.

Waite, L., & Gallagher, M. (2000). The case for marriage. New York: Doubleday.


Items on the 24-item version of the RMBI

RMBI  Please indicate the extent to which you believe that each of the following statements is true or false.

More false
than true
More true
than false


Adjustment comes quickly


A new spouse should be able to step right into the role as parent to his/her stepchildren.


A stepfamily should operate like a biological family


A stepparent should share in child-discipline duties right away.


A stepparent should expect the other family members to open their hearts to him/her as readily as they do to each other.


Stepparents should presume intimacy and authority with the children.


Stepfamily members should not be expected to immediately love one another


Partner is better than previous partner


A second (or third, or fourth) spouse should be a better spouse than their predecessor.


The new spouse should be more understanding than a previous spouse.


A new spouse should be more "in-tune" to the quality of the relationship.


A new spouse should fill the emotional holes that the previous mate left empty


A remarriage will be more fulfilling and satisfying than previous relationships


A remarrying individual is more choosy about whom s/he marries.


Stepfamilies are second-class


Overall, a stepfamily is a poor substitute for a biological family


A stepfamily can't offer children the kinds of things that a biological family can.


Individuals in a remarriage are less committed to making their relationship last


Problems that occur in a stepfamily probably would not occur in a family in which children live with both biological parents.


Children are the priority over the couple relationship


Wishes of the children take priority over the wishes of the new spouse.


Needs of the new spouse should come before needs of the children.


The relationship with the spouse is the most important relationship in a family.


In a stepfamily, children should feel they come first.


History is unimportant


The functionality of past relationships has little to do with remarriage success.


An individual's past relationship history has little impact on a remarriage.


A remarrying individual is likely to repeat the same patterns/behaviors as those in previous marriages.


Individuals who have divorced are more likely to divorce again.

*For copy of the complete RMBI, contact the first author by email.