Stepfamily Specific Problems

Dr. Nodrick 2002



How can I tell if the problems we are having are a product of stepfamily dynamics or something else?


Stepfamily dynamics tend to produce predictable difficulties in stepfamilies. Many of these difficulties are simply not seen in a biological family. Others are seen much less frequently in a biological family. However, stepfamilies can also have problems that have little or nothing to do with stepfamily dynamics.

Following is a sample of problems that are likely to appear in a stepfamily, but not in a biological family. 


         Conflict with a prior spouse (usually "his" prior spouse)

         Conflict regarding the discipline of each other's kids

         The biological parent acts like a "mama bear" when the stepparent tries to discipline her kids

         Kids are disrespectful /disobedient/impolite towards the stepparent

         Stepsibling conflict


         Unclear about your role and what you have to do to be successful in it

         Unsettled issues regarding names, titles, etc. (e.g., how to address the stepparent)

         Differences of opinions regarding who does/doesn't belong in the family

         It seems like two different families are living in the same house

         Couple appears to have few or no problems when the kids are not around


         Prior spouse frequently disrupts your schedule and plans for your stepfamily--often at the last minute

         "Disneyland" parenting -- the absence of a viable structure and workable rules for part-time kids

         Recurrent confusion and moodiness at the start and end of each "visit"

Overwhelming Feelings:

         Feeling like an "outsider"

         Feeling unacknowledged and unappreciated for all the things you do for your stepchildren

         Feeling jealous of your partner's child(ren)

         Feeling responsible for kids over whom you have no authority

         Feeling caught in the middle -- usually between your kids and your new partner

         Feeling your partner is profoundly unfair towards your kids

         Feeling that you are failing again -- so it must be your fault


The more concerns such as these are present in your stepfamily, the more helpful a course such as Building Stepfamilies That Work is likely to be for you and your stepfamily.

I hope that helps.



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.


Stepfamily Foundation of Alberta