STEPMOTHERS are not getting the recognition they deserve, says a local university expert and psychologist in the run-up to Mother's Day.
Dr Lisa Doodson, lecturer in psychology at Thames Valley University, runs the UK's only research-based stepfamily resource centre and believes society is being too slow in recognising the rise of the stepmother.
She said: "Mother's Day is almost upon us, when the nation will collectively spend the day celebrating their mums. But now that stepfamilies are the fastest growing type of family in the UK, will stepmums get the recognition they deserve this Sunday?
"They are affected by the damaging stigma of the 'wicked stepmum' image when they should be recognised for the great job they do,"
Dr Doodson became interested in the psychology of stepfamilies after becoming a stepmother when she remarried in 2002.
Already a mother of two children, aged 11 and 15, she thought more information and support should be available to stepfamilies and used her skills to identify problems and help
families cope with them. Her research found stepmothers suffer significantly greater anxiety and depression than biological mothers.
However, those who did not have their own children were more anxious.
It also concluded stepmothers received less support socially than biological mothers.
A recent government green paper estimates 30 per cent of mothers will be part of a stepfamily before they are 45.
This trend is slowly being picked up by the greetings card industry, illustrated by an growing volume of cards on offer for stepmothers, although choice remains limited.
The research has involved more than 250 stepmums and 80 biological mothers.
The participants completed comprehensive questionnaires assessing factors such as their perceived wellbeing, the strength of their relation-ship with their partner, support from their family and friends and their relationship with their stepchildren.
Participants then took part in inter-views and focus groups to allow Lisa to talk to them in greater detail about the issues they face in developing their families.
Her first book, How to be a Happy Stepmum, is published on May 6.