The three keys to forging strong relationships between children and their stepdads

Published: Thursday, April 11 2013 10:20 p.m. MDT

Questions, limitations

The study background notes said that there are unanswered questions about how a child's relationship with a biological father can impact attitudes toward a stepfather. A child with an absent father might either seek out a father figure or approach one with significant distrust. Those with a close relationship to their biological father could either be more welcoming of a stepfather or view him negatively.

They also noted that stepfamily relationships formed through cohabitation might be "hampered for several reasons," including what other research has found is an increased likelihood the relationships will dissolve, the fact that people who live together without marriage seldom pool their finances and that parenting responsibilities are less clear.

Among limitations, the researchers said that the study was longitudinal, but the questions the kids answered were only asked at one point in time.

A number of studies have looked at dynamics within stepfamilies. Pew, for example, asked among many other questions how obligated respondents felt they were to help out various relatives if they fell on hard times. They found the vast majority felt obligated to help their parents with a serious problem (85 percent), compared to 56 percent who felt obligated to help a stepparent. And that went both ways. Adults with both biological and stepchildren said they would feel more obligated to help their own grown child, 78 percent compared to 62 percent for the stepchild. The pattern was true for siblings, too.

EMAIL: lois@desnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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