The blended family (Week 1)

April 9, 2020

Have you ever watched the television series, The Brady Bunch? This 1960s series starred Mike, widowed architect with three sons, Greg, Peter and Bobby. Mike married Carol, who had three daughters of her own (Marcia, Jan and Cindy). After the wife and daughters take on the Brady surname, they become known as The Brady Bunch. The blended family, Mike’s live-in housekeeper Alice Nelson and the boys’ dog Tiger resided in a large, suburban, two-story house, which, by the way, was designed by Mike. While many people loved watching episodes of The Brady Bunch and the portrait of a perfect family; that was before it was painfully discovered how ridiculously unrealistic it was.

According to a nationwide Pew Research Center survey,1 the most recent data available shows, 16 percent of children are living in what the Census Bureau terms “blended families” – a household with a stepparent, stepsibling or half sibling. This share has remained stable since the early 1990s, when reliable data first became available. Since stepfamilies impact a vast majority of Americans, even readers of this column, upon your request, this month I want to re-run an updated version of the articles first appearing in this column nearly 10 years ago regarding blended/step-families. Let’s begin by looking at the myths regarding stepfamilies. The National Stepfamily Resource Center, 2 outlined 8 myths about stepfamilies which they believe can be stumbling blocks on the stepfamily journey. Due to space limitations, 5 of these myths will be provided here in part. 

Myth #1 – Love occurs instantly between the child and the stepparent. This is the expectation that because you love your new partner you will automatically love his or her children; or that the children will automatically love because you are such nice people. Think about it, establishing relationships takes time. It does not happen overnight or by magic. Stepfamily adjustment will be helped if the adults involved come to the relationships with their stepchildren with more realistic expectations about how the relationships will develop.

Myth #2 – Children of divorce and remarriage are forever damaged. Children go through a painful period of adjustment after a divorce or remarriage. Adults often respond to their children’s pain with guilt. This leads to difficulties in responding appropriately to their children’s hurt and setting appropriate limits – an important part of parenting. Researchers have hopeful news about children of divorce and remarriage. Although it takes some time, most children do recover their emotional equilibrium.

Myth #3 – Stepmothers are wicked. This myth is based on fairy tale stories. This negative concept of the stepmother role gets imparted in a very personal way and stepmoms may be very self-conscious about their stepparenting. Research has shown stepmoms have the most difficult role in the stepfamily.

Myth #4 – Adjustment to stepfamily life occurs quickly. Because stepfamilies are such complicated families, the time it takes for people to get to know each other, to create positive relationships, and to develop some family history is significant, usually at least 4 years.

Myth #5 – There is only one kind of family. Today there are lots of different kinds of families; first marriage, single parent, foster, and stepfamilies to name a few. Each is valuable, unique and has different characteristics.

If you miss any articles in this series, feel free to view the archived digital edition at:


1 Pew Research Center, Social & Demographic Trends, Dec. 2015.

2 The National Stepfamily Resource Center

Next Week: Dr. Phil’s 7 Tips for Blended Families

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