Love, Marriage and Parenting in the First Ten Years
- A stepfamily has its own natural lifecycle. Stepfamily life has three major transition points, two of which throw a family into temporary crisis: the first year- or year-and-a-half mark (the most challenging and crucial); the three- to five-year mark (when families’ identities and patterns are solidified); and the children’s adolescent years (when the child’s identity needs to create conflicts or challenges).
- A stepfamily takes several years to develop into a family unit. Contrary to long-held academic beliefs, a stepfamily begins to coalesce at the end of the second or third year, not in six months to a year.
- A stepfamily is a greatest risk during the first three years. The stepfamily failure rate is very high during this period. In stepfamilies, marital satisfaction rates start low, then climb, the opposite of nuclear family rates, which begin high, then decline.
- A stepfamily must solve four basic tasks in order to succeed. Integrating the stepparent into the child’s life, separating former marriages from the present one, managing change, and finding workable rules for dealing with non-residential parent and former spouses.
- A stepfamily can help the scars of divorce. The study’s findings affirm the work of investigators like Ms. Judith Wallerstein, which shows that a child is profoundly affected by family dissolution. Contrary to conventional wisdom, however, the study found that a well-function stepfamily can restore a youngster’s sense of well-being, as well as nurture healthy value development as capably as a nuclear family.
- A stepfamily ultimately emerges as one of three basic forms. These forms, the archetypes of stepfamily life, are Neotraditional, which succeeds, nearly all of the time; Matriarchal, successful most of the time; and Romantic, which are at great risk for divorce.
Reprinted with the permission of the Stepfamily Foundation. © 2008, Stepfamily. All rights reserved.
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