Is a Happy, Well-Functioning Stepfamily an Unattainable Ideal?
With the divorce rate of second marriages (67 percent) exceeding that of first marriages (50 percent), what is at the root of troubled remarriages? As reviewer Alice Honig describes, the thesis of Patricia Papernow’s book Surviving and Thriving in Stepfamily Relationships: What Works and What Doesn’t is that becoming a stepfamily takes hard work and is a long-term process. Merging two separate families, particularly those with children, is difficult for a myriad of reasons: traumas in the parental family of origin, different life style choices and values (e.g., vegetarian versus not, preference for a boisterous family versus a quiet way of living), or issues arising from different temperaments that the children and adults bring into the new family (e.g., withdrawn or feisty). Sometimes the troubles stem from hostility of children who are parented in a more authoritarian way by the stepparent who is viewed as a “stranger,” or fearful of being “disloyal” toward their biological parent(s).
What other factors may play into the higher divorce rate among second marriages? Is there less motivation among remarried couples to preserve their stepfamilies? How can family therapy best meet the unique needs of stepfamilies?
By Alice Sterling Honig
PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(48)