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Stepfamily Dynamics and Supporting Programs. Jennifer L. Baker, Psy.D. Anne B. Summers, Ph.D. Debbi Steinmann, M.A. Training Instructor / Mentors Melissa.

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Presentation on theme: "Stepfamily Dynamics and Supporting Programs. Jennifer L. Baker, Psy.D. Anne B. Summers, Ph.D. Debbi Steinmann, M.A. Training Instructor / Mentors Melissa."— Presentation transcript:

1 Stepfamily Dynamics and Supporting Programs

2 Jennifer L. Baker, Psy.D. Anne B. Summers, Ph.D. Debbi Steinmann, M.A. Training Instructor / Mentors Melissa A. Gibson, M.S. Kim Rozell, M.A. Graduate Assistants Brent Anderson, M.S. Matthew Biller, M.A. Cate Brandon, M.A Dawn Clinard, M.A. Jessie Clinton, M.S. Tabitha Carlson, M.S. Anup Jonathan Tony Larson, B.A. Nicole Mannis, M.A. Robert Mindrup, M.S.S.W. Colleen Quinn, Ph.D. Amber Schafer, M.A. Amanda Schroeder, B.S. The Training for the Healthy Marriage and Family Formation curriculum was created through the cooperative efforts of:

3 What is a Stepfamily? A family in which one or both of the adult partners bring a child from a previous relationship. Stepfamily is the preferred name rather than blended family.

4 Stepfamily Association Website ( How Stepfamilies Differ From First-time Families 1.Develop because of a loss. 2.Parent-child relationship has a longer history than the new couple’s relationship. 3.One biological parent is not in the home.

5 Stepfamily Association Website ( How Stepfamilies are Different From First-time Families 4.Children can be members of two households. 5.Stepparents may have to assume a parental role before a connection is made with the child. 6.No legal relationship exists between stepparent and child.

6 Stepfamily Statistics in the United States More than half of Americans will be in a stepfamily in their lifetime. In 2000, 4.4 million children lived in stepfamilies. 1/3 of Americans are currently a stepparent, stepchild, stepsibling or other member of a stepfamily.

7 Stepfamily Strengths Children adapt better in a well-functioning stepfamily than in a conflict-ridden family of origin. If a positive home environment and a positive relationship between stepparent and stepchild exists, harmony and completeness can be felt in the new family.

8 Characteristics of Successful Stepfamilies Creative Flexible Honest Practical/Realistic Strong couple relationship Sense of humor Good communication across households Realistic expectations for stepparent role Adequate finances Better communicators Shared perceptions

9 Facing Challenges Adjustment to remarriage can take anywhere from two to seven years. Newer stepfamilies may be at greater risk for conflict and more likely to experience family stressors. Conflicts and stressors affect the individuals living in a stepfamily environment.

10 A Child’s Adjustment Transitions and stressors Games parents play Age and gender Common behavioral problems Predictors Preventative factors

11 Transitional Stressors - Divorce Lessened availability of one parent. Decline in parental support and control. Moving to a new house and attending a new school. Losing old friends and having to make new ones because of relocation. Loss of the fantasy about one’s ideal family.

12 Transitional Stressors - Remarriage Parental conflict Absence of noncustodial parent Change in parenting style Dealing with new siblings Interacting with the stepparent Changes in custodial parent availability The number and complexity of transitions experienced have a great impact on adjustment.

13 Harmful Games Parents Play Loyalty choices Co-parent/stepparent put-downs Encouraging child to engage in conflict with other parents

14 Harmful Games Parents Play Time with child as reward or punishment Using money to manipulate Using the child as a messenger or spy

15 Impact of Gender Females: –Harder time adjusting. –View the stepfather as breaking the bond between mother and daughter. –Less likely to talk to stepfathers. –More likely to avoid or withdraw from the stepfather.

16 Impact of Age Younger children experience fewer adjustment problems. Children age nine and older have a greater likelihood of maladjustment. About 1/4 to 1/3 of teens in stepfamilies disengage from their families, spending little time at home. Teens more likely display externalizing behaviors and internalizing symptoms.

17 Common Behavioral Problems Following Parental Remarriage Aggressiveness Noncompliance Academic struggles Difficult adjustment in school Disruptions in peer and dating relationships

18 Predictors of Behavioral Problems in Children Parental and family conflict Parental loss Economic hardship Poor maternal well-being Negative parenting style Life and family stress

19 Protective Factors for Children Losses mourned Realistic expectations A strong unified couple Establish constructive rituals Satisfactory step- relationships Separate households cooperate

20 Stepparents & Stepchildren Do not consider stepparents to be equivalent to their biological parents. Prefer the stepparent function as more of a friend than a parent. Stepmothers experience more resistance from stepchildren and have a harder time adjusting than stepfathers.

21 Stepfamily Discipline The biological parent should remain the primary disciplinarian. When the biological parent is not present, the stepparent acts as a visiting aunt or uncle – enforcing the house rules.

22 Stepfather Issues Stepfathers are usually less involved in decision- making and punishment than are biological fathers. Children who have a poor relationship with their stepfather may have lower self-esteem.

23 Stepfather & Stepdaughter Issues Interactions are more negative than those between stepfather and stepson. Girls are more likely to: –Treat stepfather as an intruder. –Act in avoidance or withdrawal. –Initiate conflict. –Resist stepfathers’ expectations for authority and control.

24 Impact on the Remarried Couple Stepparent-stepchild relationship quality strongly impacts the marital relationship. Ambiguity about stepparent roles often contributes to problems.

25 Impact on the Remarried Couple Different boundaries and subsystems are formed within the stepfamily. Stepparents find it difficult to impact and relate to the biological parent/child relationship. Marital problems may be perceived differently by each spouse. New spouses may feel threatened by their partner’s contact with a previous spouse.

26 Ideas to Remember When Working with Stepfamilies 1.Don’t try to mold the stepfamily into the image of a first-family. 2.Be aware of the impact the stepparent-stepchild relationship can have on the family. 3.Encourage parents and children to discuss the appropriate role for the stepparent.

27 Websites Bonus Families: Family Transitions: National Stepfamily Resource Center: Stepfamily in Formation: Stepfamily Zone:

28 Questions

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