Etymology[ edit ] The earliest recorded use of the prefix step-, in the form steop-, is from an 8th-century glossary of Latin - Old English words meaning "orphan". Steopsunu is given for the Latin word filiaster and steopmoder for nouerca. Similar words recorded later in Old English include stepbairn, stepchild and stepfather. Words such as stepbrother, stepniece and stepparent appeared much later and do not have any particular connotation of bereavement.
Corresponding words in other Germanic languages include: However, parents who are close with their ex-spouse tend to make their new spouse insecure and anxious. Stepparents often face significant difficulties when interacting with the paternal parent. Often, paternal parents feel as though the other man or woman is going to ultimately replace them.
This is a common feeling for a parent to have when faced with the new circumstance of blended families. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. August Learn how and when to remove this template message Although historically stepfamilies are built through the institution of marriage and are legally recognized, it is currently unclear if a stepfamily can be both established and recognized by less formal arrangements, such as when a man or woman with children cohabits with another man or woman outside of marriage.
This relationship is becoming more common in all Western countries. However, in modern Western culture it is often unclear as to what, if any, social status and protection they enjoy in law. The stepparent is a "legal stranger" in most of the U. The biological parents and, where applicable, adoptive parents hold that privilege and responsibility. If the biological parent does not give up their parental rights and custody of the child, the other parent's subsequent marriage cannot create a parental relationship without the biological parent's written consent before a "child" reaches adulthood.
In most cases, the stepparent can not be ordered to pay child support. A child's parents or legal guardians may sign a statement authorizing a third party to consent to medical care. Unmarried couples today may also find social recognition locally through community consensus. Still, it is not at all clear what formal parenting roles, rights, responsibilities and social etiquette should exist between "stepparents" and their "stepchildren.
For all the confusion which stepparents may feel, it is often even less clear to the stepchildren what the interpersonal relationships are, or should be, between themselves and their stepsiblings; between themselves and their stepparent; and even between themselves and their birth parents.
These relationships can be extremely complex, especially in circumstances where each "stepspouse" may bring children of their own to the home or in households where children are expected to actively participate in each of the newly created families of both birth parents. Although most stepfamilies can agree on what they do not want to be for one another, they are often hard pressed to agree upon what they do want to be for one another.
This makes it difficult for everyone in the family to learn their roles. It is especially difficult for the children, because the roles and expectations of them change as they move between the homes and families of both of their birth parents. Stepparent adoption[ edit ] The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject.
You may improve this article , discuss the issue on the talk page , or create a new article , as appropriate. December United States[ edit ] In the United States, the most common form of adoption is adopting a stepchild. By adopting a stepchild, the stepparent is agreeing to be fully responsible for their spouse's child. The biological parent not living with the child no longer has any rights or responsibilities for the child, including child support.
Both biological parents, if living, must consent or agree to the adoption. When a stepparent adopts a stepchild, either the non-custodial parent of the child willingly gives up his or her parental rights to the child, or the court terminates the parental rights of the biological parent if there is evidence of abuse or neglect to the child.
If a parent is not involved in the child's life, the court can terminate that biological parent's rights on the grounds of abandonment.
Grounds for abandonment in most states is no contact between the parent and child for at least one year. Local laws to complete a stepparent adoption vary. While having the non-custodial parent consent to the adoption is the easiest way to complete a stepparent adoption, it is still possible to have one completed when they either do not consent, or cannot be located.
A stepparent adoption can still occur if the other birth parent refuses to give consent or cannot be located. Most states' laws allow parental rights to be terminated when a parent has willfully failed to pay child support or communicate with the child for a period of time, usually a year. Canada[ edit ] In Canada, one needs to put into writing what the child's circumstances are for being adopted. Some circumstances may include: If the child is an indigenous person, then the family must specify their plan to keep the child involved in their culture.
Cinderella effect A common villain of classic fairy tales is the abusive stepmother. She mistreats her non-biological child by locking them away, or trying to kill them in some cases, and treats her own children very well if she has any.
In popular culture phrases like "I'll beat you like a red-headed stepchild" are uttered as a common threat that show just how aware people are about the assumed nature of stepfamily abuse. The thought is that because this child is not the biological child they are more likely to be beaten due to a lack of kinship ties. The research on this topic shows that this issue is not so clearly defined however. The image of the wicked stepmother is well known but much of the research available shows more of the abuse coming from stepfathers rather than stepmothers.
Stepfathers have been shown to abuse female stepchildren more than males. They are also shown to be more abusive towards female children than biological families, but less abusive than adoptive fathers.
Neglect is also discussed as a qualifying method of child abuse by stepparents in general. In a U. In places with higher levels of social strain abuse may be more prevalent or more violent. They found that when the data is balanced, the biological parents have a much higher rate of abuse than the stepparents do.
There is little research in the field of parental abuse by children in concern with stepchildren abusing stepparents. The abuse of stepchildren by their siblings is also a topic with little research. In research[ edit ] In her book, Becoming a Stepfamily, Patricia Papernow suggests that each stepfamily goes through seven distinct stages of development, which can be divided into the Early, Middle, and Late stages.
The Early stages consist of the Fantasy, Immersion, and Awareness stages. In the Fantasy stage, both children and parents are typically "stuck" in their fantasies or wishes for what their family could be like.
The developmental task for this stage is for each member to articulate their wants and needs. In the Immersion stage, the family is typically struggling to live out the fantasy of a "perfect" blended family. In this stage, it is critical for the "insider spouse" i. The task of this stage is to persist in the struggle to become aware of the various experiences.
This stage is followed by the Awareness stage, in which the family gathers information about what the new family looks like e.
The tasks of this stage are twofold: The individual task is for each member to begin to put words to the feelings they are experiencing, and to voice their needs to other family members. The joint task is for family members to begin to transcend the "experiential gaps" and to try to form an understanding of other members' roles and experiences. In the Mobilization stage, the stepparent can begin to step forward to address the family's process and structure.
The tasks of this stage are to confront differences in each member's perception of the new family, as well as to influence one another before shaming or blaming begins to take action to reorganize the family structure. The goal here is to make joint decisions about new stepfamily rituals, rules, and roles.
The focus in this stage is on the stepfamily's unique "middle ground" i. In the Contact stage, the couple is working well together, the boundaries between households are clear, and stepparents have definite roles with stepchildren as "intimate outsiders.
Finally, in the Resolution stage, the stepfamily's identity has become secure. The family accepts itself for who it is, there is a strong sense of the stepfamily's middle ground, and children feel secure in both households. The task for this stage is to nourish the depth and maturity gained through this process, and to rework any issues that might arise at family "nodal events" e.
For example, role ambiguity, dealing with stepchildren, and ex-spouses are only a few of the issues which are unique to these families. In response to these families' desire for assistance, stepfamily education has become an increasingly common topic among scholars and educators.
Although still a relatively new facet within the marriage education realm, stepfamily education provides important information which may not be addressed in traditional marriage or relationship education curriculum. As discussed by Adler-Baeder and Higginbotham  a number of curricula are currently available to stepfamilies and family life educators; however, further research is needed in order to determine best-practices for the field. One way in which this gap is being filled is through the current implementation of Healthy Marriage Demonstration Grants  in the U.
As part of the Deficit Reduction Act of , grants for healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood, which include at-risk and diverse populations such as stepfamilies, are providing important information on the evaluation of stepfamily programs and their effectiveness in servicing stepfamilies.