CFD 3240 Lecture 7: Stepfamilies

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University of Central Missouri
Child and Family Development
CFD 3240

Parents and Children in Stepfamilies • Expectations that the stepfamily will function like the intact family are unrealistic • Many couples are concurrently developing couple relationships and negotiating stepparent-stepchild relationships • Cultural beliefs perpetuated by media and folk tales either stigmatize stepfamilies or promote unrealistic expectations Challenges in Stepfamilies • Lack of clarity of the role of stepparent o Stepparents are less certain about their role in the stepfamily than are other family members • Children’s expectations and loyalty issues o Most stepfamily households consist of the mother, her children from a previous marriage, and a stepfather o Stepchildren tend to reject stepfathers who engage in discipline and control early in the relationship o Children and adolescents expect their biological mothers to maintain primary parental responsibilities ▪ They expect their stepparent to play a minor parenting role o Children and adolescents in stepfamilies want demonstrations of support and commitment from their parents Stepfamilies That Work • Most stepchildren do well in school and do not have emotional or behavioral problems • Family relationships are less conflicted when o Custodial parents establish & maintain supportive relationships with their children o Custodial parents continue to play the role of disciplinarian o Stepfamilies have open and supportive communication When Stepfamilies Break Up • Children who have experienced multiple parental transitions have the most behavior problems • Children of mothers who have experienced no partner change have the fewest behavior problems o Example: married mothers who have remained married or single mothers who have remained single Adolescent Single Parents • Births to teenage mothers declined sharply in the last three decades • Rates in the U. S. Still at least twice as high as in other industrialized countries • Still over fifty percent in many of our largest cities and close to that in some states • Teenage parenthood is most prevalent among already disadvantaged youth Adolescent Parenthood • Teenage parents tend to function less effectively in several realms in comparison to their peers • Low educational achievement and poverty precede, rather than stem from, early parenthood • Adolescent parents have: o Poorer psychological functioning o Lower rates of high school graduation o Lower levels of marital stabilit
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