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What is a Step Family?

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 13 Sep 2010 | comments*Discuss
What Is A Step Family?

By definition, stepfamilies are those in which one or both partners enter into a marriage, bringing along one of more children from a previous relationship to form a blended family. The children often live in two households for at least part of the time, but that is not always the case. Sometimes, one parent has full time residential custody of the children.

Love and Marriage

Today’s high rate of divorce means that there are more stepfamilies than ever before as exes move on to form relationships with new partners. While stepfamilies may have been relatively uncommon a few generations ago, they are quite normal these days. There are challenges that come along with the blending of families, of course, but most members of stepfamilies would describe their relationships and loving and supportive.

Siblings, Step-Siblings, and Half-Siblings

Depending on the exact blend in a particular family unit, the children in stepfamilies may be siblings, step-siblings, or half-siblings. While the terms may sound a bit confusing, they are really quite easy to understand.
  • Siblings share the same two biological parents.
  • Step-siblings are not biologically related. Their natural parents are simply married to one another.
  • Half-siblings share one, but not both biological parents.

In addition to those terms, there are a few others that come into use when talking about the logistics of stepfamilies. They include:

  • A mutual child is one that is the biological child of both parents. Usually, the mutual children are the youngest members of a stepfamily, having been conceived after the couple married to form a blended family.
  • Residential stepchildren are those who live with the remarried couple most or all of the time.
  • Non-residential stepchildren may live with the remarried couple some of the time, or they may not live with them at all.

Family is Who You Love

While there are a number of specific situations that officially define a family as a stepfamily, there are some aspects of the family unit that go far beyond describing each member’s biological connection to the others. As any parent or stepparent will attest, the most important things about families have nothing to do with biology. The caring that develops when people come together to share their lives and guide children into adulthood far outweighs any connections that are based solely on matching strands of DNA.

Building Lasting Bonds in Stepfamilies

Most stepfamilies go through an initial period of adjustment as they get to know one another and build trust. In time, though, most stepparents develop the same feelings of unconditional love for their stepchildren that they have for their own kids, and the children, who may be hesitant to accept a stepparent into their homes and hearts, soon soften when they realise that their parent’s new spouse wants nothing more than to be loved and respected.

By taking the time to build loving bonds with each of their stepchildren, stepparents can become important in the lives of their spouse’s children. Forming a happy and harmonious blended family may take a while, but the rewards are plentiful!

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