Class: FRHD*1020 (Couple and Family Relationships)
Professor: S. Murray
Textbook: “The Family Dynamic – A Canadian Perspective” Fifth Edition
Authors: Margaret Ward and Marc Belanger
Chapter 11: The Second Time Around
• To look at historical changes in remarriage patterns
• To consider the process of forming a new family system and its relationship to the family life cycle
• To examine factors leading to success and failure in stepfamily relationships
• To look at the relationship of the stepfamily and society at large
REMARRIAGE – A NEW TREND?
Divorce rates increasing means remarriages also increasing. About 1 in 10 had been married more than
once – 2001 survey. Third and fourth marriages rare. Single marriage typical of older people who have not
divorced or did not remarry after widowhood.
33.9% of marriages, in 2002, had at least one partner who had been previously married. Divorced people
accounted for most remarriages, more than doubled from 1971-1996 but now levelled off. Number of divorced
people not wishing to remarry has increased since 1996.
Until end of WWII, more remarriages followed death of a spouse; now common to remarry after
divorce. 1970-1972, 58% of women and 23% of men were widowed, divorced 19%.
Life expectancy has increased, decreasing likelihood of becoming a widow; divorce laws drastically
changed; improved pensions and acceptance.
Remarriages often result in stepfamilies. Table 11.2 does not include living experiences. Divorce rates
of second marriages are higher than first marriages, but more stable. Remarriages also include additional
relationships when children are involved, step-mother and mother, etc. About half of stepfamilies become
blended families – they have an ‘ours’ child.
Table 11.1 - Remarriages, Canada, 1971-2002
Percentage of Marriages with at Least One Percentage of Remarriages with
Spouse Previously Married Both Spouses Previously Married
1971 16.6 40.8
1981 27.5 40.8
1991 32.1 42.8
1996 34.1 45.0
2001 34.2 45.7
2002 33.9 45.7
Table 11.2 – Stepparent Families, 1995, 2001 and 2006
(% of all families) 1995 2001 2006
Stepfamilies 5.1 5.7 5.3
Married 2.6 2.9 2.8
Common-law 2.5 2.9 2.6
Blended families (his/hers/ours) 1.9 2.3 2.4
Her children 2.6 2.9 2.3
His children 0.6 0.6 0.6 FORMING A NEW FAMILY SYSTEM
Reconstituted families (or remarriage families) have few norms to guide them and do not fit expected patterns
set for first-marriage families.
Stages of Remarriage-Family Formation
Stage One: entering the new relationship
Stage Two: planning new marriage and family
Stage Three: forming the remarriage family
First – must have achieved an emotional divorce from their union. New couple must commit themselves
to the new family with all its complications Must have open and honest communication, accepting that
difficulties cannot be solved overnight. Partners must accept their anxieties and those of others. Negotiate
boundaries and roles, letting children maintain existing relationships. Develop its own rituals to promote a
sense of belonging. Negotiate responsibilities of each adult.
Boundaries mark out who belongs to the family, must be open and clear; establishing traditions help builds
family solidarity. 1) Parents and children do not all live together – custody arrangements determine where and
how children live. 2) Partners often keep finances separate because of children’s needs and earlier unions. 3)
Authority of children and responsibility for them rest in two households, often with varying rules. Permeable
boundaries permit children to move back and forth between households with the least amount of strain.
Confusion over roles goes along with boundary ambiguity. First-marriages are nuclear families –
complementary roles (husband/wife, parent/child), social expectations, role strain occurs when there is a misfit
between individuals and the roles they are expected to fill (mother and evil step-mother). Too many candidates
for each available role in remarriages. Loyalty issues and conflict. Key time for conflict is any major event for
a child – graduation, weddings, etc. It is important for remarried adults to be realistic and remain flexible.
Traditional gender roles work against stepfamilies. Stepparents need to work out an appropriate role.
A difficulty facing some children is the loss of accustomed roles. 1) when new family includes
stepsiblings, the oldest child loses position as well as the youngest child; 2) child forfeits status if used to be
only gender child and now there is a same-sex sibling; 3) if child has been a confidant of a single parent, the
new partner assumes that role.
Renegotiating boundaries and roles take time, and may need continual adjustment.
The Couple Relationship
Second and later unions are generally more fragile, counsellors advocate remarriage preparation; tend to go for
informal preparation vs. formal. Establishing boundaries around the couple relationship helps define social
roles. Need to realign relationships with their children, ex-spouses, extended family, and friends.
Often, second marriages are less romantic, more realistic and honest about difficulties in the marriage.
May be sensitive to conflict, which can result in more open communication and greater awareness of partner’s
feelings; OR may result in shutting down in fear of another divorce.
Ex-spouse can have affect on new marriage. Ann Cryster coined expression “wife-in-law” to refer to
the relationship between current and ex-wives; an unchosen, unwanted and without rules or traditions;
emotional and permanent. Last minute cancellations from ex-spouse can affect plans, request for change in
custody, failure to pay support, requesting help for home repairs. Most common conflict – children; not all new
spouses want the children; if biological parent becomes jealous of affection between stepparent and stepchild,
conflict can arise in teen years.
Box 11.1 – Do Grandparents Have Rights? – Refusing visitation of ex-spouses parents. Grandparent rights
vary in provinces. Quebec is most far-reaching in its Civil C