What is a Stepfamily?
A stepfamily is any spousal
union where at least one of the partners has a child, or children from a
The family of the new
millennium is a stepfamily. There are now more stepfamilies than
"original" or nuclear families.
Fifty percent of all
children under the age of 13 currently live in some form of a stepfamily.
Approximately two thirds of
all stepfamilies fail.
Thirty percent of all stepfamilies fail
within the first two years. Fifty percent fail within the first six years.2
Children are seriously
impacted by family breakdown. Many experience persisting academic,
social, emotional, financial, and relationship difficulties as a direct
result of family breakdown.
Traditional family therapy
only helps about 30% of stepfamilies on the verge of breakdown.
Most of the problems
stepfamilies experience are rooted in the stepfamily situation,
not in the people involved.
When stepfamilies in
difficulty are provided with information and guidance in addressing issues
specific to the stepfamily situation, over 80% of them3 can go on to
become stable, loving and healthy family environments.
Stepfamilies can be healthy,
loving and exceptionally stable living environments.
Early stepfamily life is stressful
for everyone. This is particularly
true a) for the first two years a stepfamily is together, and b) for women in the stepmother role if they have never had children of their
(If you are a stepmom without kids of your own, click here
to learn more.)
Most of the difficulties that
stepfamilies face are a product of the stepfamily situation, not the people
Unlike the biological family,
stepfamilies are built upon loss. [Disagree with this? If you do, Dr. Bray might
see you as a member of a "Romantic" stepfamily. Click here
to learn more about Dr. Bray's research on stepfamily types.]
Stepfamilies are much more complex
than biological families, and have very different dynamics than biological
Stepfamilies follow a predictable
developmental course that differs importantly from the developmental course
followed by biological families.
to learn more about the
developmental stages of the stepfamily.
Stepfamilies must accomplish four
critical developmental tasks*:
building a strong couple bond,
incorporating the stepparent into
the lives and management of the stepchildren,
relationships with the former spouse(s), nonresidential parent(s), and
extended family members, and
acquiring the skills necessary to
address problems and manage change.
All of the strategies,
tools and techniques necessary to accomplish these essential tasks are
Stepfamily success can be yours*:
if you and your partner commit to working as a team,
the two of you learn about
stepfamily dynamics, and
as a couple, you put what you learn into action.
These tasks are addressed in detail in
Stepfamilies That Work.
Statistics: The numbers tell the story. The
2. Miller, Marla S. The
High Cost of Divorce.
Over 95% of all couples who have taken Building
Stepfamilies That Work, provided by the
Foundation of Alberta since 1998, remain together today.
The information contained
on this page is for the personal use of stepfamily members visiting this web
site. All other use, reproduction, distribution or storage of this work, in
whole or in part, by any and all means, without the express written
permission of the author, is strictly prohibited.
Foundation of Alberta