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Providing help and hope for stepfamilies.








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What is a Stepfamily?

A stepfamily is any spousal union where at least one of the partners has a child, or children from a previous relationship.

Stepfamily Facts and Statistics:

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.

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.

A stepfamily has its own natural lifecycle. Stepfamily life has three major transition points, two of which throw a family into temporary crisis: the first year- or year-and-a-half mark (the most challenging and crucial); the three- to five-year mark (when families' identities and patterns are solidified); and the children's adolescent years (when the child's identity needs to create conflicts or challenges).

A stepfamily takes several years to develop into a family unit. Contrary to long-held academic beliefs, a stepfamily begins to coalesce at the end of the second or third year, not in six months to a year.

A stepfamily is at greatest risk during the first three years. The stepfamily failure rate is very high during this period. In stepfamilies, marital satisfaction rates start low, then climb, the opposite of nuclear family rates, which begin high, then decline.

A stepfamily must solve four basic tasks in order to succeed: Integrating the stepparent into the child's life, separating former marriages from the present one, managing change, and finding workable rules for dealing with non-residential parent and former spouses.

A stepfamily can heal the scars of divorce. Research results reported by Dr. Bray affirm the work of investigators like Dr. Judith Wallerstein, which shows that a child is profoundly affected by family dissolution. Contrary to conventional wisdom, however, Dr. Bray also reports that a well-function stepfamily can restore a youngster's sense of well-being, as well as nurture healthy value development as capably as a nuclear family.

A stepfamily ultimately emerges as one of three basic forms. These forms, the archetypes of stepfamily life, are Neotraditional, which succeeds, nearly all of the time; Matriarchal, successful most of the time; and Romantic, which are at great risk for divorce.

The Good News

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.

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The Stepfamily Foundation of Alberta

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

(403) 245-5744