Blended family: Wish or Compromise!
Remarriage affect the power dynamics within marriage. It witness changes in men and women in terms of marital power across their first-marriage, divorce and remarriage. It is observed that male ego and social setup cannot tolerate women’s market worth more when he compares with his worth! On the contrary domestically oriented women do undergo a feeling of loss of power. These circumstances pave the way for remarriage and formation of blended families. It surely affects the market work, marital and divorce experiences and their working atmosphere.
Formation of blended family or stepfamily is a step to meet and fulfill the desires of each other as in these families one or both partners have been married before and has lost a spouse through divorce or death, and may have children from the previous marriages. Blending of two families not only encompasses two people coming together but also their children get an acceptance from the opposite partner and his/her children.
Only by visualizing one cannot discriminate between the composition of first-marriage families and blended families, but when observed closely then there do occur a drastic difference in terms of marital conflicts. Blended families are structurally more complex as it comprises more family members. Children along with the adults (new parents) of blended family have to share more relations making the family tree from simple to complex. This results in amplification of the possibilities for conflict. Also the range of types of relationships also can lead to a greater likelihood of family disputes (Borrine Brown & Handal, 1991).
This complexity can also affect the psychology of the child because of lack of family boundaries; this also affects the discipline of the family affecting the judgment for a child who is the part of family, whom to accept to what extent it is going to affect his / her position in the family. It becomes difficult for the child even more when blending occurs, but couple is living in cohabitation. This affects the psychology to a greater extent and the child may drop faith in relationships and family system. One of the biggest issues now-a-days is to deal with child psychology as today; children are more aware and know most of the issues prior to their age. If the child psychology is disrupted then it may lead to abnormal behavior, child delinquency, or the child may refrain from the society. This childhood agony and behavioral disturbances lead the child to follow the path of wrong actions and deeds (Stewart, 2005). It is therefore imperative to carry out a study to investigate the pervasiveness and nature of boundary ambiguity in stepfamilies.
Due to lack of proper understanding, and uncertainties in terms of the roles, responsibilities, privileges, obligations and duties of stepparents are not comprehensible in contrast to the biological parents (Borrine Brown & Handal, 1991). Step parents remain perplexed and may perhaps not know how to act and develop understanding towards their step children, whether to be an adult companion, authoritarian, a compassionate adult, a secluded adult or some other role required to fulfill the demands of the children of both sides.
Furthermore, family members in stepfamilies have diverse histories. When two partner marry they set up a joint family culture with their own customs, prototypes and distinctiveness and their children adopt the same traditions as an essential part of their lives. Children are shaped and brought up according to this culture, but when parents are separated and they encounter a new relationships in the family they are lost in resolving their identity and it becomes cumbersome for the child or children to overcome the stress and confusion developed because of blending of two different families. When the demands of biological child is not fulfilled, agony and criticism creeps in the family with much greater intensity then the first marriage. (Borrine Brown & Handal, 1991).
Another issue is of loyalty and commitment resulting in triangulating behaviors of the children. Financial issues to support the step child may also become one of the major reasons of conflict. Issues also relate the nonresidential parents and culminate in the form of competition among stepsiblings for everything. This conflict is depicted in the psychology of the child or children.
Over the past four decades, income inequality has increased and family structures have diversified. Women are also contributing equally in the financial matters leading to conflicts over the satisfaction of egos. When they are not able to cope with the situation and tension persists it leads to separation of the partners. It is also observed that in gender inequalities, it is the mother who incur more child-related costs then the father (Weaver, 2001).
It is observed that some important changes in the social framework took place over 25 years where men and women form partnered relationships. This came in picture with the changes in the area of partnering, due to increase in the living relationships also called as cohabilitation. This is followed by entering into relationship and marriage, then remarriage; it also depends on the timing of the marriage in the life course.
The family trend is changing now showing a rise and fall of the married population. According to 2001 Australian census, around 52% of population above 15 years is married, as compared to 65% in 1971. Statistical analysis on the frequency of marriage provides a depiction only about the marriage and not about the broken marriage that have ended in divorce or widowhood. The decline in the ration of marriages does not indicate that people are not marrying but indicates that people have lost reliance on the marriage system and social trends resulting in the emergence of new epoch of families which encouraged early and universal marriage.
It is observed that what is said to be the stigma if a women conceives before marriage, now cohabilitation is bringing open sexual relationships and use of birth control pills and other means of contraception to evade the chances of bearing the burden of child (McDonald, 1995).
The trend also depict that in order to procure high status and position, and to meet the challenges of the growing competition, the demand for skilled work force is on a rise. This has led them to attain tertiary education; there is a cut down in the numbers of early school leavers finding full time paid work. To meet the growing demands and challenges thrown upon everyday and to prove oneself, early marriage is avoided by the young population. They are aware and do not want to share the additional burden of family and responsibilities. This turned out to be the major factor to discourage early marriage and there occurred a rise in cohabilitation and delays in marriage (McDonald, 1995). It is also observed that marrying before the age of 25 is becoming relatively uncommon for both the sexes. (ABS 2001)
Factors contributing to formation of blended family/ extended family
Various factors can change the destiny of a child and the life of spouse. With the changing trends women are also working equally as compared to men, it is reflected in her confidence. She is capable of managing home as well as office and therefore is not all that docile to be tamed easily by the dominance of male. If the preferences match they stay together for life with a positive understanding and progressive temperament. She is the one who is solely responsible to make the family and break the family because she is of course a mother too. What step she is going to take today leaves great impact on the next generation. Both partners must not be mean to think about them only rather they should think constructively in the direction of family bonding.
The financial security of the women has also supported the formation of blended family as now she is not docile to hear and tolerate the harassment made by her husband in front of children as this disturbs theirpsychology and so she moves out of the relationship.
The intimacy of the family bonding in life of a child comes from the family. It is the family which shapes the lives and a person with this persona grows up and also formulates similar relationships with the life partner. If the individual is a creation of blended family, the psychology must be different and this may be constructive and respectful if the blending is towards positive direction or negative if the psychology has faced some kind of family impact and is deep rooted in the mind.
To avoid the bad influence of male partner on her child women moves out of the relationship of first marriage and remarry with the partner who does not have bad habits of drinks and smoking.
It is evident that children during their formative years are influenced by teachers, sports, Scouts, their peer group, school, neighborhood, and the like, but the real influence in any child’s life comes from home. It is therefore crucial that the relationship between children and their parents is runny, self-motivated and activated to boost the morale of the child throughout the life of child.
It is pragmatic that when child is born, the entire family environment changes. It is vital that parent’s interaction with the elder child/ children must be congenial as it determines the child’s final destiny. Divorce / death of a parent is a major change and a major influence on a child and the family. If there is a blended family in the family tree, as there are in most families now in U.S. it leaves impact on the child.
It is therefore blending families not only invites troubles but they tend to change the psychology of the child. Kids of different ages and genders will adjust differently. The physical and emotional needs of a 2 year old girl are different than that of a 13 year old boy. Parents must develop an understanding between themselves (as spouses) and must understand the psychology of the child/ children before expecting the perfect blend of the families. There occur a drastic difference between the reaction of boys and girls towards acceptance of stepparents. Both boys and girls in stepfamilies tend to prefer spoken love, friendliness such as praises or compliments, rather than physical closeness, like hugs and kisses. It is natural that girls tend to be tight with physical displays of warmth from their stepfather as compared to boys who accept a stepfather more quickly.
People who have an insecure attachment record may have troubles ascertaining close, loving bonds with new people. Providentially, it is by no means too late to modify this propensity. An uncertainly attached child (or adult) can learn to trust others, and bond with people who treat him with consistent affection, attention, and respect.
How to achieve success in the organization of blended family
Generating and establishing trust is the major contributing factor. The children may feel uncertain about their new “family” and resist parental efforts to get to know them. It is normal, they need lot of love care and affection and time for the understanding to be framed.
By creating clear, safe boundaries in blended families, an important part of building trust in a family has to do with discipline. This is done when couples discuss the role of each stepparent and formulate the changes in household rules. Stepparent must establish a more of a friend or counselor role rather than a disciplinarian. It is imperative that kids must be given time till that time the biological (custodial) parent must remain primarily responsible for discipline until the stepparent has developed solid bonds with the kids. The stepparents and stepchildren must try to understand the rules and boundaries are for everyone in the family (blended family).
The spouses must deal with differences in a congenial and co-operative manner to turn the merged families into a success. This is achieved by understanding what are the differences in parenting, discipline, lifestyle, etc. and to make it a priority. Agreeing on some consistent guidelines and strategies will show the kids that parent and stepparent intend to deal with issues in a similar way. This should diminish some feelings of unfairness.
Keeping the parents involved in the blended family make the children adjust better as they have access to both biological parents. This generates feeling of trust and understanding for the parents love and care for the child and motivates the child towards positive direction.
Blended Families often can use some encouragement, hope, motivation and insight. Remarriages seem to be popular these days, across all age groups, previously married men and women are more likely to marry then those who had never married (McDonald, 1995). For example while 71 per 1000 never married men in their late 20s and early 30s married in 2000, 103 to 104 per 1000 previously married men in these age groups remarried in 2000.
Remarriages have become more outstanding in late 1970s that in first three quarters of the 20th century. Only 10% of the marriages were involved in remarriage in 1911, that increased to 17% in 1955 and now over 1/3rd of the marriages each year culminate into remarriage (ABS 2001). This is explained in terms of increased divorced population since the Family Law Act 1975 came into process. This is one of the major reasons that more people are turning to remarriages.
The rise and fall of marriage is also due to changing nature of marriage formation. The rise of cohabitation corresponds the modern decline in marriages. One of the most important changes in partnership formation is the increasing tendency for couples to cohabit before they marry. Premarital cohabitation was virtually non-existent before 1960s and only 16% couples who married in 1975 cohabited. While in 1980s around half of all marrying couples cohabited in advance while in 2001, 72% of couples who married had lived together first. The trend is changed that it becomes unusual now if they do not live together before marriage (ABS, 2001).
A marked turnaround in attitudes to cohabitation has ascertained that these trends are both contributing and fuelling the young generation. When cohabitation was virtually non-existent a feeling of strong stigma was attached to such behavior and to sexual relationships outside marriage which is now evaded (McDonald, 1995).
One of the major reasons is the age at which relationship is formulated that also paves the way for remarriages and formation of blended family. With the increasing trends in cohabitation followed by marriage, the age matures and first relationship develops at the age of around 24 years which is more as compared to the previous trends (McDonald, 1995).
Thus there have been important changes in the way in which men and women form couple relationships. The proportion of the adult population that is married has declined since the period after World War II. Both men and women spend a considerable part of their adult life without being married, and are now older when they are married. Formal marriage is no longer the only way in which people partner ever since the cohabitation came in existence. Moreover, with the changing trends of jobs and working atmosphere the colleagues spend more time together then with the family and spouse this has also forced them to have divorce from the spouse and form a blended family with the partner of the choice.
The hassle of family disputes can be resolved with a proper understanding to avoid any kind of breaks and leaving a psychological impact on the children and also on the adults.
1. ABS (2001), Marriages and Divorces Australia 2000 Catalogue No. 3310.0, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.
2. Borrine M.L., Brown N.Y., & Handal P.J., Searight H.R. (1991) Family Conflict and adolescent adjustment in intact, divorced, and blended families. Journal of Consulting and clinical Psychology 59, 753-755.
3. Stewart, S.D. (2005). Boundary Ambiguity in Stepfamily. Journal of Family Issues 26; 1002.
4. Stewart, S.D. (2000) Brave New Stepfamilies. Diverse Paths Toward Stepfamily Living
Task, S.H., Hamon R.R. (2007) Cultural Diversity and Family. Expanding Perspective.
5. McDonald, P (1995) Australian families: Values and behavior” in R. Hartly (ed) Families and Cultural Diversity in Australia Australian Institute of Family SStudies, Melbourne in conjunction with Allen and Unwin Publishers, Sydney
6. Weaver S. E., Umana-Taylor A.S., & Hans D. J., Malia S. E. (2001) Challenges Family Scholars May Face in Studying Family Diversity. A focus on Latino Families, Stepfamilies and Reproduction Technology. Journal of Family Issues 22; 922
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