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More Americans Than Ever Are Part of a Stepfamily

More Americans Than Ever Are Part of a Stepfamily

A new survey reveals that more than 4 in 10 Americans count at least one step relationship in their family. The incidence of stepparents, children and step or half siblings have become more commonplace according to the survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. But while people in stepfamilies are just as likely as those who are not to say that family is important, they do favor biological relatives over step and half relations in terms of familial obligation.

Blood Is Still Thicker

While the number of adults with step-relations is growing, the gap between people’s sense of duty to blood relatives over step relations is still notable. For example, while 85% of those surveyed felt strongly about providing assistance to a biological parent in need, only 56% felt the same sense of obligation to a stepparent.

Adults with biological and step-children felt similarly with 78% willing to assist a grown biological child in need versus 62% willing to help a grown step-child.

Siblings fared much the same. Adults were 64% more likely to help out a biological brother or sister while only 42% would do so for a step or half sibling.

Family Over Friendship

However, family ties outranked friendship regardless of the origins of the tie as only 39% of those surveyed felt obligated to assist even a best friend in need.

Stepfamily Demographics

Unsurprisingly, people under the age of 30 were most likely to report being part of a blended family. 52% of the under 30 crowd reported having at least one step relative, and they are the group most likely to have grown up with parents who were divorced, separated or never married.

Blacks were more likely than whites or Hispanics to be a part of a step-family and half of those in households earning less than $30,000 a year reported being part of a step-family also.

A Road Less Traveled

Equally unsurprising was that fact that most people in stepfamilies found that their lives were not something for which they had planned. When asked whether life had turned out as they’d hoped or expected, 54% of those in stepfamilies said it had not, compared to 40% of people who had no step relations.

But no one was particularly unhappy with his or her situation. Seven in ten adults with step relatives reported being very satisfied with their lives compared to the 78% of those not in a blended family.

Let’s Hear From You

I have been a stepparent for nearly four years, and my blended family includes my husband’s late wife’s family as well. While I would agree that it is not the family I envisioned as a young woman, it is also not riddled with the friction or fiction of a television drama either.

What have your blended family experiences been like? Do you agree with the findings of this latest survey about the secret lives of stepfamilies? Let’s hear from you.


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Photo credit: Family Hike by Woodleywonderworks

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5:00AM PST on Jan 25, 2014

Hmm. I have no experience here.
. It looks like mixed families this are the new patters of family life in Western counties,so we better get used to it.

3:01AM PST on Jan 24, 2011

I'm thinking much of that is based on how people grow up. If parents argue about the "my kid is better than your kid", that attitude is going to affect the kids too.

I'm also wondering about why half siblings aren't being recognized as biologically related, since they share one parent's DNA.

My mother had been married to my father, another man, and now my current step father. There is my sister and I from her and my father, we're full sisters. Then with the second man she married, he had a son from a previous marriage, and so he was my step-brother. When the dad decided to leave us, for what ever reason, I never disowned my step brother, and I still call him my brother to this day, even though my mom and his dad separated 24 years ago.

Thing is, if your biological family abuses you, but your "step" family is kind to you, who are you going to stick with? With divorce rates so high, try finding a partner who doesn't have children. It's not always easy, and so we must accept the fact that we take in the kids too, and if you can't, don't marry that person.

I never take out on a child what the situation is, nor do I blame them for their parents' mistakes.

8:50AM PST on Jan 21, 2011

My brother and I were already adult and I was married before our father remarried, so I have one of your more tenuous relationships with my stepmother and stepbrother. But it isn't that I think of reading this, but two other things. One, I had stepcousins growing up that are significantly different from my "real" cousins - they do not have any similarity in personality, while I can clearly see myself in one way or another with all my biological cousins. There is a definite divide even though we all grew up together. Also I have known so many people who did grow up with stepsiblings, and not only was there frequently no similarity in personality, but THEY WERE FREQUENTLY TEMPORARY EVENTS. Parents who married twice were likely to divorce twice, and the legal relationship between stepsiblings was likely to come down as fast as it went up, sometimes after only a couple of years. So these kids were usually quite wary of each other.

2:07AM PST on Jan 19, 2011

I'm just wondering how the questions were worded, and how good the relationship between the parent/child or step parent/step child was for the purposes of the study. I'm imagining that a child raised by a step mother since (s)he was 1 and throughout would hold similar value as a birth parent/child relationship. Or if the biological parent was abusive, or the biological child has a history of some sort. What about adopted children? When we choose to marry someone with children, we are accepting the children as a package deal. There is no difference between taking in step children vs. adopted children, and there is no difference in taking on the task of parenthood. Half siblings are also biologically related. They share half of the relation, so that doesn't make sense to me either.

9:12PM PST on Jan 17, 2011

thanks for the information.

4:04PM PST on Jan 17, 2011

as long as everyone is happy

12:48PM PST on Jan 17, 2011

I have been the stepfather of four great children for 28 years. No it is not the family I envisioned in my youth, but it has been the most rewarding experience I could ever have imagined. My stepchildren are no less my children then had they been my biological children. I have been truly blessed in my life because of my children, let there be no doubt whatsoever.

11:43AM PST on Jan 17, 2011

Thanks for the article.

6:33AM PST on Jan 17, 2011

For what it's worth, my husband feels a lot closer to his stepmother than to the woman who gave birth to him and raised him. It takes more than genetics to form a lifelong bond.

4:55AM PST on Jan 17, 2011

It's better to be happy in a step family than to be unhappy in a biological one.

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