A blended family is the active merging of stepfamily members into the family unit. In other words, when a stepfamily enters into another family unit, there is a desire from the parents or grandparents to bring the families together socially. Even if the head of the families has a positive attitude in joining together distinct families, there are advantages and disadvantages to this type of family cohesion.
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In the view of a child, a stepfather or stepmother may be a welcome familial authority. For example, if a parent had to raise a child all alone before a marriage, then the stepparent may help with familial duties. However, the added number of stepfamily members may be difficult for the child and the stepfamily to balance in terms of familial roles. Does the stepchild need to view the step-parent's parents as grandparents? Do the step-aunts or step-uncles have the authority to discipline the step-nephew or step-niece? These questions are not easily resolved and even in a loving family willing to blend, the boundaries between where biological family and stepfamily ends and begins remains a tough issue.
Handling Other Biological Relatives
A stepfamily is the creation of a new marriage that came about from the death of or the divorce from a spouse. That means any child in the blended family has to contend with a stepparent and that step-parent's family with a child's biological family. For example, if a child has a divorced mother and father and the mother remarries and blends the stepfamily, the child has to consider her relationship to her new stepfamily and her father's family. This influences a child's life and a married spouse's life as well. A married spouse may have brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles and parents. These family members also have to cope and merge carefully with the new family in-law.
Different Family Views
A married couple often compromise on certain values when joining together. However, in terms of a blended family, the values of each spouse's family and children may be a positive welcome or a point of contention. One example of contention might be religious faith. For example, say the stepfather and new husband to a spouse converts his faith to be the religion of the spouse and the spouse's child. This may help in cohesion between the spouse and stepchild, but the stepfather's family may object to the fact that the stepfather converted his faith. The opposite may be true if the spouse and child or children convert to the new spouse's faith.
New Family Structure and Traditions
The enrichment that may come from blending may outweigh the initial issues of family boundaries. For example, events like holidays or birthdays can welcome members of a stepfamily and the immediate biological family. Any unique cultural traditions of the stepparent or stepfamily may be incorporated into the daily life of the family, enriching a child's life. A report by Pearson Education in 2008 noted that the younger the child is when a stepfamily is blended increases the likelihood the child views the stepfamily as his own family and he is more likely to be happy and well-adjusted toward the stepfamily. Although there can be boundary issues in discipline and the role of stepfamily members toward a stepchild, the enrichment of a blended family may outweigh any initial cohesion issues.
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- Education; Facts and Myths About Blended Families; G. Olsen, et al.
- Better Health Channel: Stepfamilies
- Way2Hope: Blended Family Problems
- University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension; Couples Considering a Blended Family; Kate Fogarty, et al.
- Help Guide: Guide to Step-Parenting and Blended Families