A Mixed Picture of Whether the Children Benefit from Step-parenting
Key Points
  • Whether you are a single parent, or a blended family, step-families may have their own set of problems, especially if the divorce is contentious. Co-parenting in this type of situation is paramount to ensure children adjust to the changes in their life.
  • Children who are in a blended family may exhibit more negative behaviors than in a traditional family. Children in a single-parent household may exhibit the same negative behavior.
  • While the standard of living may improve for a child where a step-parent is concerned, co-parenting is still an important issue to discuss since the child may bring challenges to a blended family.

Penn State Professor Paul Amato describes the contours of stepfamily living. In his paper "The Impact of Family Formation Change on the Cognitive, Social, and Emotional Well-being of the Next Generation," Amato writes: "Adding a stepfather to the household usually improves children’s standard of living. Moreover, in a stepfamily, two adults are available to monitor children’s behavior, provide supervision, and assist children with everyday problems. For these reasons, one might assume that children generally are better off in stepfamilies than in single-parent households. Studies consistently indicate, however, that children in stepfamilies exhibit more problems than do children with continuously married parents and about the same number of problems as do children with single parents. In other words, the marriage of a single parent (to someone other than the child’s biological parent) does not appear to improve the functioning of most children."

"The evidence suggests that stepfamilies are no improvement over single-parent families, even though typically income levels are higher and there is a father figure in the home. Stepfamilies tend to have their own set of problems, including interpersonal conflicts with new parent figures and a very high risk of family breakup," writes David Popenoe in "The Top-Ten Myths of Divorce."

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