Literature Review: Restorative Justice in Step-Parent and Child Relationships

By: Gavin Hoole

10th May 2024


Restorative justice is a framework that prioritizes repairing the harm caused by conflict or wrongdoing. It seeks to bring together all stakeholders to address the harm, make amends, and facilitate healing. In the context of step-parent and child relationships, restorative justice can play a crucial role in resolving conflicts, fostering understanding, and building stronger family bonds (Weiss-Wisdom, 2019).



The recommended books offer diverse perspectives on the dynamics of step-parent relationships. Weiss-Wisdom (2019) provides practical techniques for new step-families, emphasizing the significance of communication and understanding in overcoming common challenges. These techniques align with restorative justice principles, which prioritize dialogue and empathy to resolve conflicts.


Cooper’s (2016) narrative in “The Ring Bearer” can be instrumental in teaching children about the changes and adjustments that come with having a step-parent. The story’s focus on love and family blending can serve as a resource for restorative practices, encouraging children to express their feelings and concerns openly.


Martin’s (2009) “Stepmonster” provides a candid look at the experiences of stepmothers, highlighting the emotional and psychological aspects of these relationships. The book’s insights can inform restorative justice approaches by acknowledging the unique challenges stepmothers face and promoting strategies for mutual respect and validation.


Deal’s (2014) “The Smart Stepfamily” offers a comprehensive guide to creating a thriving blended family. It underscores the importance of patience and perseverance, which are crucial in the restorative justice process, as families work towards reconciliation and unity.



The literature on step-parent and child relationships highlights the potential of restorative justice to facilitate healing and foster positive family dynamics. By applying the principles of restorative justice, step-families can navigate the complexities of their relationships, address conflicts constructively, and build a foundation for long-term harmony and understanding (Deal, 2014).



Cooper, F. (2016). *The Ring Bearer*. Dial Books.

Deal, R. L. (2014). *The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family*. Bethany House Publishers.

Martin, W. (2009). *Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do*. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Weiss-Wisdom, D. (2019). *Wisdom on Stepparenting: How to Succeed Where Others Fail*. Wisdom Publications.


The literature reviewed provides valuable insights into the dynamics of step-parent and child relationships and highlights the potential of restorative justice to promote healing and positive family dynamics. By prioritizing open communication, empathy, and mutual respect, step-families can overcome common challenges and build strong bonds. The recommended books offer diverse perspectives and practical techniques for addressing conflicts constructively. By applying restorative justice principles, families can navigate the complexities of their relationships, fostering understanding, and building a foundation for long-term harmony and understanding.


The guiding principles of restorative justice can be applied to step-parent and child relationships in the following ways:


  1. Offenses in family contexts can be viewed as harm done to the relationship, rather than legal crimes. Restorative justice can help fix the harm done to the relationship.
  2. In step-families, the children or parents who feel hurt or neglected are the victims. The family unit is the community. Restorative justice centers on healing the family as a whole.
  3. The priority is to help the child or the aggrieved parent to ensure that their emotional and psychological well-being is addressed, which is crucial for healing.
  4. The goal is to restore harmony within the family. This involves creating an environment where all members feel valued and understood, rebuilding trust and communication.
  5. The step-parent or biological parent who may have caused harm takes responsibility for their actions and works towards making amends, demonstrating commitment to the family’s well-being.
  6. All family members, including extended family, participate in the restorative process, sharing the responsibility for healing and supporting one another.
  7. Through the restorative process, the offending party learns from the experience, gaining a better understanding of the impact of their actions and how to improve their relationship with the child and other family members.


These principles involve various stakeholders working together to support the victim, hold the offender accountable, and restore the community. In the family context, applying these principles involves the collective effort of all family members and possibly external mediators or counselors to achieve resolution and healing. The ultimate goal is to transform the family dynamics into a more positive and supportive environment for all involved.