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Stepfamily Information

New Families - Stepfamilies
Stepfamilies are created when two parents separate, and one or both of them enters into a new relationship. They’ve always been around but where in the past they were unusual and happened when a spouse had died, now they are the fastest growing form of family in this country, usually arise out of separation or divorce and are becoming a norm.

These families can be challenging for anyone involved, whether they are a parent, child, stepchild, stepparent or step-grandparent. Therefore it is clear that family change is affecting a large number of people.

Stepfamily Situations
We use the term stepfamily situation broadly to include people who might not think of themselves as being in a stepfamily. Examples are:

  • A single mother who has a boyfriend.
  • A father whose ex-wife has a new partner.
  • A child whose mother is cohabiting with a father – not the child’s.
  • An adult whose mother or father remarries.
  • Step-grandparents.

Stepfamilies becoming a norm
In reports taken from the 2001 census it was found that:

  • 5.3% of all families were stepfamilies i.e. 5 in 100.
  • 38% of cohabiting families with dependent children were stepfamilies.
  • 8% of all married families were stepfamilies.

Some points to consider about Stepfamily Situations

  • Stepfamily Situations are far more common, and affect far more people than at first might appear. They are increasingly becoming the 'norm'.

  • Loss is inevitably present and part of the formation of any stepfamily situation.

  • Children in stepfamily situations can blame themselves or think they are wrong or bad for having conflicting feelings.

  • Adults in stepfamily situations can feel guilty, ashamed or not normal for having the feelings they do and therefore avoid talking about them.

  • People in stepfamily situations often expect of themselves that they should feel equal amounts of affection towards step relations as they do towards their own biological family and blame themselves when they don’t.

  • People often blame problems on their stepfamily situation and forget that biological families can also be problematic.

  • Often people have an idealised ‘fantasy’ family and are upset when their stepfamily isn’t like that.

  • Parents might confuse children's developmental problems with stepfamily problems.

  • Stepfamily Situations are broader than the stepfamily household itself. There are often people who are part of the whole situation who live elsewhere and are overlooked.

  • Stepfamily parents often have to share their children and ex-partners with people that they feel very little for or even actively dislike. Similarly stepfamily children have to share their parents.

  • All families family including stepfamilies are in a 'process' - so when we look at them we are catching a point in time; its like freezing a frame in a film because the family is constantly evolving.

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