Archive for Parenting

One in Three

One out of three children are stepchildren.  One out of three Americans are in a step relationship.  More than half of Americans today will be in one or more step situations in their lives. 

These statistics about stepfamilies may seem surprising.  Yet, history may offer an even more surprising description of America’s families from the past:

  • There were less stepfamilies in the 1950’s than in the 1850’s.
  • Remarriage rates are lower now than in the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • In the late 1700’s in America, the average length of a marriage was 7 years.

As history details, a large number of stepfamilies in the country is not a new phenomenon.  The main difference between now and the past is why there are so many stepfamilies.  In the past, stepfamilies were created mostly because of remarriage after the death of a spouse.  Today, stepfamilies are most often produced because of remarriage after a divorce.

When forming a stepfamily, remember these facts:

  • There is no such thing as instant love.
  • Stepfamilies require more flexibility.
  • A stepfamily is born of loss.  Family members may need a time of grieving.
  • Negotiation and conflict are normal and expected.
  • Individuals will have different ways of doing things based on his/her family history.
  • Children are often members of two or more households.
  • Children usually desire a continued relationship with the non-residential biological parent.
  • A stepparent’s authority role takes time.
  • Generally, the older the children, the more difficult the transitions and acceptance of stepparent.

Stepfamilies obviously face unique challenges.  These challenges can be turned into great opportunities.  There is hope.  There are practical things stepfamilies can do to be successful.  Families can learn strategies for strengthening the couple relationship, for co-parenting, and for building strong family relationships.

Relationship Facts

From Why Marriage Matters, 2nd Edition.

Among the research findings summarized by the report are:

About Children

  • Parental divorce reduces the likelihood that children will graduate from college, and achieve high-status jobs.
  • Children who live with their own two married parents enjoy better physical health, on average, than children in other family forms. The health advantages of married homes remain even after taking into account socioeconomic status.
  • Parental divorce approximately doubles the odds that adult children will end up divorced.

About Men

  • Married men earn between 10 and 40 percent more than single men with similar education and job histories.
  • Married people, especially married men, have longer life expectancies than otherwise similar singles.
  • Marriage increases the likelihood fathers will have good relationships with children.  Sixty-five percent of young adults whose parents divorced had poor relationships with their fathers (compared to 29% from non-divorced families).

About Women

  • Divorce and unmarried childbearing significantly increases poverty rates of both mothers and children. Between one-fifth and one-third of divorcing women end up in poverty as a result of divorce.
  • Married mothers have lower rates of depression than single or cohabiting mothers.
  • Married women appear to have a lower risk of domestic violence than cohabiting or dating women. Even after controlling for race, age, and education, people who live together are still three times more likely to report violent arguments than married people.

About Society

  • Adults who live together but do not marry—cohabitors—are more similar to singles than to married couples in terms of physical health and disability, emotional well-being and mental health, as well as assets and earnings.  Their children more closely resemble the children of single people than the children of married people.
  • Marriage appears to reduce the risk that children and adults will be either perpetrators or victims of crime. Single and divorced women are four to five times more likely to be victims of violent crime in any given year than married women. Boys raised in single-parent homes are about twice as likely (and boys raised in stepfamilies three times as likely) to have committed a crime that leads to incarceration by the time they reach their early thirties, even after controlling for factors such as race, mother’s education, neighborhood quality and cognitive ability.