Stepfamily Facts


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 Statistics:1

  • 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 own. (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 involved.

  • 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 families.

  • Stepfamilies follow a predictable developmental course that differs importantly from the developmental course followed by biological families. Click here to learn more about the developmental stages of the stepfamily.

  • Stepfamilies must accomplish four critical developmental tasks*:

    1)     building a strong couple bond,

    2)     incorporating the stepparent into the lives and management of the stepchildren,

    3)     effectively managing relationships with the former spouse(s), nonresidential parent(s), and extended family members, and

    4)     acquiring the skills necessary to address problems and manage change.

    All of the strategies, tools and techniques necessary to accomplish these essential tasks are detailed here.

           Stepfamily success can be yours*:

    a)     if you and your partner commit to working as a team,

    b)     the two of you learn about stepfamily dynamics, and

    c)     as a couple, you put what you learn into action.


* These tasks are addressed in detail in Building Stepfamilies That Work.


1.    Stepfamily Statistics: The numbers tell the story. The Stepfamily Foundation NY

2.    Miller, Marla S.  The High Cost of Divorce.

3.    Over 95% of all couples who have taken Building Stepfamilies That Work, provided by the Stepfamily Foundation of Alberta since 1998, remain together today.


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Stepfamily Foundation of Alberta