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Think. Discuss. Act. Family

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Step Families

Summary

Stepfamilies across the United States are becoming a larger family structure each decade. The first national television stepfamily was the 1970s’ “The Brady Bunch.” Seldom did anything go wrong, and when it did, somehow it was miraculously worked out in less than thirty minutes. Not all struggles are deep and complicated; yet, there are still issues that stepfamilies face which are unique to their family group.

Many surveys show that 17% of families with children under 18 years of age have stepchildren. And predictions for the future show that as many as one half of today’s young persons in the United States may become stepsons or stepdaughters by the year 2000. This reality hits home for teachers, counselors, and youth workers as they spend time with families, knowing that almost one of every five families will have a stepchild in their home. In fact, almost one of every ten children is a stepchild.

These statistics do not imply that stepfamilies are wrong or have negative effects on society. However, stepchildren face uncommon struggles. Many children face a stepparent who either does not desire involvement in their life or tries to control their former freedoms. Children in a remarried family have to release their fantasy that their biological parents will reunite. There is confused loyalty in the family between biological parents and stepparents. How should the family spend the holidays? With which parent? Authority and child rearing are difficult. Finances are usually tighter when supporting two households. Stepchildren have more developmental, behavioral, and emotional problems than children in intact families. Also, they are more likely to be victims of child abuse, especially sexual abuse, than other youngsters.

Many of these struggles can be avoided or lessened with help of a support group or an individual counselor. The stepfamily can work and talk together in a neutral territory so that each member is heard. Usually, stepfamilies have high expectations that can be difficult to attain, but helping to talk together can bring expectations to reachable goals.

Implications

  1. Many stepfamilies can lead exciting and fun lives together. Doing things as a family will help bring endless years of memorable moments together.
  2. The potential of the family will be attained through effective communication, moving slowly, and remembering the needs of one another. There are positive steps made every day when stepparents and stepchildren affirm one another.
  3. As a society, if stepfamilies are viewed positively from outsiders, they will have the same hopes and dreams as the traditional family. Teachers, counselors, and youth workers can affirm the positive interaction of stepfamilies and move toward a natural integration of every family that is remarried. We can help bring them back into the society and community as a normal functioning family.

Anne Montague
© 2017 CYS

J.H. Miller. (1991). “Stepfamilies.” S. Hamilton, MA: Center for Youth Studies.

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