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Stepfamily, a Growing Concern

Updated on May 13, 2009
Family Matters
Family Matters
Nuclear Family
Nuclear Family

Challenges of a Blended Family

The blended family had become more popular than the traditional nuclear family. Today about 24% of the American population comprise of the nuclear family as oppose to 40% in 1970. (Wikipedia) The divorce rate in North America is about 50%. This means that the blended families will continue to grow as more people get divorced and remarried. According to the Census Bureau, by 2010 the blended family will become the dominant family structure in the US

Today's women on average get married for the first time in their mid twenties to early thirties. Statistics of Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Denmark show that the average age of women's first marriage is usually thirty years old and men 32 years old. For North America, the average age of first marriage is between 25 and 28 for women and 27 and 29 for men.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average age of women getting divorced for the first time is 33. The average age for women getting divorced from a second marriage is 39. As the median age between re-marriage, i.e. second marriage is 3.5 years, this means that a women will be in her second marriage by the age of 37 and a man at the age of 42. This means that both are both still within the childbearing age range, and so having children together is highly likely. They are also likely to bring children to the new marriage.

The blended families phenomenon is growing as about 65% of remarriages involve children.(US Census Bureau) The Bureau states that 2/3 of all remarried women and 23% of children will cohabit as stepfamilies.

The blended family has to deal with the realities of merging two families. This is sometimes challenging as values and parenting styles collide. Children are usually caught up in this collision of biological parents and stepmother/father. Coordinating holidays and vacations can become a huge undertaking. Small details can become very complicated, especially, if the exes are still feuding. One parent may undermine agreements with another, thus creating confusion and changes in previously arranged plans.

My personal experience confirm some of the statistics and trends. My husband and I were divorced for an average of ten years. This is our second marriage. He came into the second marriage with two teenage daughters and I with a teenage daughter. Raising teenage girls is difficult without the baggage of a stepfamily. The differences in our parenting styles were major challenges because we had opposing expectations of the children.

I am very involved with my daughter since I had been a single mother for over ten years. My daughter and I had open communication and even though I allowed some independence, I expect to know where she was always. She had a curfew of 11pm and had to call to let me know if she was going to stay out later. She was expected to respect and participate in family obligations. This does not mean that she was an angel, of course, she was a teenager, with normal reactions.

My husband, on the other hand, was very much hands off. He did not set a curfew for his children; they could stay out as late as they please. He did not demand that they respect family obligations. This is not to say that they were dispespectful, they just had other priorities. Initially these differences in expectations were the bases of many conflicts. Gradually, we learnt to respect each others style.

Raising a six years old son together has enabled us to utilize our different parenting approaches. We have to constantly work at our parenting skills so that we do not undermine each other. In our family, it would appear that my son is the bridge that blends the family together. From time to time the children have commented on the differences or similarities with their upbringing as compared to their brother. When all is said, they respect and love each other and that's all that a family can expect.

Stepmothers historically do not have a positive image and so that can put some stress on the relationship with stepchildren; stepmothers sometimes find it difficult to decide whether they should be a friend or a parent .The role of a stepfather to teenagers or young adults can be very strained; as stepfather struggles to balance being a disciplinarian or a cool "yes man". It is uncharted territory as biological mother and father,stepmother, stepfather, and stepchildren compromise in the interest of each other. There are no easy answers or solutions as each case is unique and require specific considerations.

I love all my children; biological and step, and would not trade them for anyone else. Even though it continues to be a struggle as personalities clash over the smallest of issues, patience is a virtue. Respect, support and understanding are attributes that allow for a workable relationship in a blended family.


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      MistyArlington 2 years ago

      You are right, blended families are much more common than they ever have been since the divorce rate is so high. I grew up in a blended family and me and my husband are a blended family as well. I wouldn't trade any of them for the world :)

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      comit 5 years ago

      This type of family is very important at least all our because with out families how would you think we would a make it out in life.In your family you are looking for some to care for you and love you for who you are.

    • DynamicS profile image

      Sandria Green-Stewart 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      C.E. Grant, thanks for your visit and your comments. Step/blended family is a growing concern worldwide. You're right some thoughts must be put into the subject.

      I consider myself a part of that social laboratory. I continue to learn from the experience. Fortunately or maybe not, my stepchildren are grown and so they have a clear idea of their expectations from me. While I some ideas of my role, I let them lead the way in regards to the relation with me. They know that I love and respect them.

      I find that the challenge in a blended family is the adult relationship. Overcoming differences in parenting styles can become problematic.

      Maybe I'll take your challenge and write a post about reconciling differences of opinions in a blended family.


    • C.E. Grant profile image

      C.E. Grant 6 years ago from StepLand's Sunny Side

      Dear DynamicS:

      This is an exceptionally well-thought-through hub, & I appreciate your viewpoint, especially since it comes from experience!

      As an active advocate & authour in the field of step/blended family dynamics, I whole-heartedly enjoy your work & look forward to more that you have to say on this subject in future.

      More voices of peace & understanding in this arena will make the future of blended/step families much, much brighter.

      Keep writing!

      Warm regards...C.E. Grant

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      Dynamics 8 years ago

      fastfreta, thanks for your kind words. I appreciate your feedback about stepfamily. You are so kind...

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 8 years ago from Southern California

      Very well written and researched hub. You seem to have the situation well in hand, bravo. Keep up the good work, with all that you are doing, including writing these wonderful hubs.

    • DynamicS profile image

      Sandria Green-Stewart 8 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Frogdropping, thanks for your comment. You are right, the younger the children, the more challenges that a family has to deal with and for longer period of time. And yes harmony does require a lot of work; overlooking the small things and choosing your battle.

      I take it that you are up to the challenge.

      Take care.

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 8 years ago

      Dynamic - thought provoking. I'm kinda sorta going through the blended family stuff. Mine are grown, OH has one, 12yo. Not quite the same as a combined family with younglings but still.

      I can imagine you've had to work a bit harder to create harmony. Nicely hubbed, rated up :)