Blended Families

Within three to five years after divorcing 75% of single parents remarry. Those who think they’ll never repeat the mistakes they made the first time around are mostly wrong; second marriages are more likely to end in divorce than first ones. Remarriages often give custodial parents security and more money, however they pose new challenges for their children. Living under the guidance of someone other than their natural mom or dad, living beside and sharing with a step-sibling they may or may not like, and splitting their parent’s love and attention are three big changes children have to adjust to.

What often happens first is a transitions period of conflict and disruption as new family roles and relationships are ironed out. Boys seem to benefit more from blended families: they gain a step father, their self-esteem is given a boost, they feel less anxious and angry about their mother’s remarriage, and they eventually overcome most of their pre-divorce adjustment problems. Girls on the other hand are not as easy to win over. Girls view their stepfather as a threat to the relationship they have with their mother, and are likely to resent their mother for remarrying and compromising their happiness.

The introduction of a stepmother into a family makes for a rockier ride than a stepfather. Stepmothers are typically more involved in monitoring and disciplining children. A father’s remarriage is particularly difficult for girls to swallow, especially if their natural mother is close to them.

Teenagers find it harder to adjust to a reconstituted family than younger children. Adolescents who are struggling with their own individuality and independence may find it hard to conform to rules set by an outsider.