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This is one of a series of lesson-7 articles on howtoevolve a
high-nurturance stepfamily. The "/" in re/marriage and re/divorce
notes that it may be a stepparent's first union. "Co-parents" means both
bioparents or any of the
related stepparents and bioparents co-managing a multi-home
One of five reasons for
re/divorce is lay and professional
unawareness (vs. stupidity). Part of this unawareness is not knowing
the stepfamily basics summarized below. Other parts are
co-parents and supporters not knowing relationship,
communication, and effective-grieving basics. See which of the
factors below are new to you, and note your reactions to
If you seek American
stepfamily statistics, go
(different Web site). This article is based on my
research on U.S. stepfamilies. I suspect these basics apply to other
cultures as well.
To begin, rank yourself now: on a scale of one (I know
nothing about stepfamilies) to 10 (I am a highly-qualified stepfamily
expert) I am now a ___.
video previews what you'll read in this article. The video mentions eight
lessons in this educational Web site - I've simplified that to seven.
36 years' professional research and clinical and personal
experience, I offera summary of important facts
(not statistics) about typical multi-home stepfamilies. Step-people and
their supporters need to know these facts to form
realistic expectations about their
roles, relationships, and dynamics.
Few couples are motivated to learn these facts before committing to form or
join a complex, stressful stepfamily.
Over half of American remarriers with
prior kids ultimately divorce psychologically or legally.
Before continuing, please
tell me a little about your stepfamily. This brief
survey is anonymous, and will
help me improve online Lesson 7.
Notice which of these facts differ from what you currently believe...
Our prefix "step-" comes
across a thousand years from the Middle English
William the Conqueror's subjects used that root to describe "not related by
marriage." Shame-based, unaware
people dislike "step-" because they associate it with second best, prior
marital failure, inferiority, unnatural, abnormal, and unreal. Such people use
blended, bonus, woven, bi-nuclear, co-, reconstituted, combined, reconstructed, second (family), and serial and encore (remarriage) to avoid
Using terms like these promotes
toxic denial of stepfamily
A stepfamily has at
least one stepmom or stepdad providing part-time or full-time
nurturing, protection, and guidance to one or more minor
grown kids conceived by the stepparent's partner and their
Stepfamilies are normal.
They've been around as long as tribal members raised the children of dead,
disabled bioparents. They've probably been the majority family type across
centuries and cultures, until modern health care greatly reduced the
global human mortality rate this past century.
There are over 100
structural types of normal
stepfamily,considering combinations of...
child custody - sole, joint, physical, and legal;
parenthood (no prior kids, one or
more prior sons and/or daughters; one or more "ours" kids, or
none; prior kids dead; kids dependent or grown; teenagers or none;
stepparent adoption or not;...)
co-parents' prior marital status -
never married, divorcing, redivorced, and/or widowed; and...
bioparent's status - living or dead, single and never remarried,
single and re/divorced, re/married with or without resident and/or
visiting minor/teen/grown stepkids;...
So unlike traditional
intact-biofamily members, typical
stepfamily adults and kids will never meet people in a similarly-structured
family.That often promotes
feeling isolated, alone, and "weird." These and adults'
wounds can promote harmful
not a stepfamily") and repressions. These foster
unrealistic expectations, confusions,
disappointments, frustrations, and conflicts - i.e. stress.
A "blended" or complex stepfamily is one where each mate has one
or more living or dead children from prior unions. In a "simple" stepfamily,
only one mate has prior kids.
multi-home stepfamilies are
the same as average
intact biofamilies in some ways, and differin up to
35 structural ways and ~30 unique
family-adjustment tasks. The role of stepparent is the same a
bioparent in some ways, and
different in almost 40 social and
environmental ways. Most step-people and supporters are unaware of these
combined differences and what they mean.
90% of U.S. stepfamilies follow the
of one or both new mates. A century ago, ~90% followed the death of one or both mates' prior partners. One implication -
stepfamilies must include the needs, values, and opinions of one or more
mates and their relatives.
More key stepfamily facts....
American stepfamily couples
are more apt to differ widely in age,
race, religion, ethnic ancestry, financial
assets and debts, and educational level than
typical first-time couples. Stepfamily wives are more apt to be older than
their husbands than in first marriages;
Have three or more
(a divorced biomom and biodad, and a stepmom, stepdad, or both), living
in two homes;
zero to 8
living stepfamily co-grandparents, and a proportionately large number of
step-aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives;
Have biosiblings, stepsiblings, and/or
in the same home, in their other bioparent's home, in both, or none of
by their stepparent or not. Most U.S. stepparents don't adopt;
May have the same
as a stepsibling and/or their same-gender stepparent, and may have
a different last name than their re/married biomother;
May receive no
bequest if a stepparent
dies without a will, even if they were emotionally close for many years;
And typical stepkids may...
attracted (or attractive) to a resident or visiting
stepsibling, and/or a young stepparent, because
the incest taboo
is weaker in average stepfamilies. The odds of American
stepdaughter incest by a step-relative are higher than for biodaughters and
to live with their other bioparent sometime before they're 18. This
happens in about 30% of typical U.S. stepfamilies, creating waves of
emotional, financial, structural, legal and lifestyle changes in and
between both homes;
Have up to
needs from childhood trauma, parental divorce and remarriage/s,
and becoming a stepchild, on top of normal
developmental needs- often with little informed guidance
from family adults, teachers, relatives, or others. This significantly
complicates effective co-parenting, compared to bioparenting.
universal need (for all bonded family members) is to grieve
many significant abstract and physical losses
(broken bonds) from divorce or death, remarriage, cohabiting, and
merging their biofamilies. Kids' mourning progress largely depends
on their biofamily's unspoken
grieving policy, which can range from healthy to toxic.
role of stepparent (stepmother, stepfather) can differ from the
role if bio(loogical) parent (mom, dad) in up to 40 environmental
ways. Stepchild discipline can differ environmentally from normal biofamily
discipline in up to 20 ways. Few average stepfamily adults or supporters
(e.g. clergy and counselors) can name these differences and facts, and often
have unrealistic expectations about stepparenting
and reflect: how many of
these stepfamily facts
did you know before you read this? How many typical
steppeople and family professionals do you think are aware of them?
This article summarizes some key facts about typical multi-home
stepfamilies. The article exists because most steppeople and supporters are
unaware of these facts and form unrealistic expectations, causing
Healthy stepfamilies offer members the same priceless benefits as
high-nurturance intact biofamilies. Most people are unaware of vital facts
about stepfamily life, so achieving these benefits is very
The biggest unawareness is of this lethal
hazards it causes!
Lessons 1-7 here aim to
help you guard your
family against in inheriting these hazards.