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Friday, April 13, 2012


Statistics indicate that more than one-third of Canadians are stepparents, stepchildren, stepsiblings, or some other member of a stepfamily. The number of children living with both of their biological parents has declined, and the number of children living in a stepfamily has increased.

Family structures have changed through divorce, single-parenting, or remarriage.  The big  question many struggle with is how such changes affect children.  Everyone assumes that any family form that differs from the traditional two-parent, biological family is assumed to place children at risk.  Assumptions are never good and this is an area that has been under research for many years. Some studies find children in stepfamilies are less well adjusted than children in other families and other studies find no such differences.

Two somewhat consistent findings have emerged from the literature. No differences in self-esteem are found between children of different family structures, and children in stepfamilies tend to leave home earlier.  More recent studies indicate that children in stepfamilies have more overall behavioral problems than children in first-marriage families.

Some studies find children in stepfamilies to be susceptible to peer pressure and deviant peer relationships, which may lead to later delinquent behavior, and girls in stepfamilies may be at increased risk for drug/alcohol use. Because children in stepfamilies and single-parent families report more negative stress in their lives, behavior problems and adjustment difficulties may be one reaction to stress. Compared to children in intact, unhappy first-marriage families, stepchildren are better adjusted.

After all the research we come back to something we know, from living in a stepfamily, to be true.  Time is needed for children to adjust; some adjustment difficulties and negative reactions would be expected. With time many problems disappear or decrease.   We believe that children are ver resilient and given the opportunity will adjust to changes in their lives.    

Research consistently suggests that the parent-child, former-spouse, and the spousal relationships affect child outcomes. For example, parenting style and positive parent-child interactions affect children's adjustment. Studies indicate that high parental warmth and support, consistency, limited use of punishment, and agreement between spouses on children's issues are associated with positive outcomes. The former-spouse relationship also can affect children's adjustment through conflict and competition. 

Regardless of family structure, we know that low marital conflict and positive spousal relations enhance children's adjustment.  Any home that is highly conflictual is likely to negatively affect a child's well-being.  Higher stress may lead to adjustment difficulties such as poor academic performance and problem behaviors. Age of the child is another factor affecting children's adjustment. Adolescents have a more difficult time than do younger children, in part because adolescence is a time of developmental change.

At the end of the day, when you look at all the variations of "types of families" and the rapid pace of change in our lives today there is no factual evidence that children in Stepfamilies are more at risk than those in a biological family.   Families are a dynamic entity where all the members must work together and achieve some form of "common ground" and trust. 

Trust does not happen overnight, and we in Stepfamilies often want to wave that "magic wand" and have the perfect "Brady Bunch".   Over time we might get close to perfect, but sometimes acceptance of what we have is a great place to be.