Think 'stepmother', think 'Lady Tremaine': psychological bully of the darling, Cinderella; a woman obsessed with status and power; the nightmare consequence of remarriage...
If that's how your thinking has followed, then dear reader, it's time for a rethink. Because contrary to the character depicted by Charles Perrault/Brothers Grimm/Disney, research has now uncovered that stepmothers are often what keep a family unit together following a divorce.
Cara Zaharychuk from Athabasca University in Alberta, Canada conducted research into families post-divorce and discovered that if given a 'clearly identified role', stepmothers can hugely benefit, The Daily Telegraph reports.
'Society’s view of the wicked stepmother needs to be challenged to accommodate the changing formation of the family unit,' Cara said. 'Stepmothers should not be stereotyped as wicked, distant or cruel.'
She continued, 'Stepmothers can aid in reducing negative repercussions. Effectively incorporating them into the family can aid in a healthy transition.
'When the stepmother has a clearly identified role within the family, the overall family function is improved.'
The Office of National Statistics' most recent bulletin (released in December last year) showed that there were 111,169 divorces in England and Wales in 2014.
In the article for the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, Cara wrote that 'addressing role ambiguity, relationships, communication styles, and reorganization can help families avoid unnecessary stress during divorce and remarriage.
'Interventions that focus on increasing coping mechanisms and effective communication help reduce negative side effects and aid in the successful reorganization of the family following divorce or remarriage.'
So it would appear that stepmothers can actually be more help than hindrance to families during what is often a turbulent and stressful period. Might it be time to give the 'wicked stepmother' phrase a makeover?
Salaca doo la menthicka boo la bibbidi-bobbidi-boo...