Stepfamilies - some issues and myths to consider

Possible events that can make stepfamilies more




·        At least one partner has experienced marriage and parenthood before or a partner who is a parent has never been married

·        Partners in stepfamilies who have never married or lived with a partner are unaccustomed to family life (apart from their family of origin)

·        Adults and children come into the relationship at the outset

·        The parent and stepparent often do not have the time together alone before having children live with them.

·        Stepparents have to live, or care for and/or relate to stepchildren with whom they have no “history”. There is a lack of bonding.

·        Single-parent family life often precedes stepfamily life.

·        There is at least one “intruder” in the stepfamily unit.

·        Children often lose contact with a parent from the previous family – sometimes this is a loss of daily contact, other times it is for ever.

·        Children often have two homes with two sets of rules, conditions, disciplines etc.

·        Visiting children/stepchildren have to be accommodated in the stepfamily from time-to-time.

·        Family members may experience relocation of home, school, job, activities etc.

·        New responsibilities may emerge.

·        Unfinished business from a past marriage (anger, grief, guilt, anxiety) can come into a stepfamily.

·        Suspicion and lack of trust between stepparent and stepchildren may exist.

·        Surnames of children can be different and create a sense of not belonging.

·        There are more people, all at once, having to get used to each other.

·        There is no “legal” relationship between stepparent and stepchild.

·        Socioeconomic conditions might change; money can be tight

·        Sibling order might change so the oldest, for example, now could be a middle child

·        There might be less space or territory for each person

·        At least one person has to adjust to living in a different home – with  different family rules, etc



Some "myths” about Stepfamilies



·        A stepfamily is created instantly

·        Stepfamily members can function like  biological families

·        All stepfamily members will, given time, love one another

·        Relating to stepchildren is the same as relating to biological children

·        All the children in a stepfamily will automatically get on together.

·        Part time stepfamilies where children “visit” have it easier than full time stepfamilies where children  “live in”

·        The stepfamily is headed by a wicked stepmother or cruel stepfather

·        Stepfamilies formed after the death of a partner have fewer problems that those formed after  divorce or separation.

·        If stepchildren are treated kindly by their stepparent, they will always respond well.

·        The couple can love one another so much that problems creating a stepfamily will be easily overcome

·        Stepfamilies are better off because parents have learned from their mistakes in the first marriages/couple relationship.

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