Social Support in Stepfamily Worlds
Chapter One. Why Study Stepfamilies?
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Why Study Stepfamilies?
The picture that researchers paint of stepfamilies is certainly not like that of the family imagined in Norman Rockwell’s paintings. When Hess and Handel (1959) were writing, about 75% of children lived with their own, married, fathers and mothers (Cherlin, 2010), whereas today it is estimated that about one third of all children live in a stepfamily (Ganong & Coleman, 2004; Stewart, 2007). The mere increase in the number of stepfamilies is not alarming, per se; however, the consistent finding that outcomes for children reared in stepfamilies are worse than for children in biological families has shined a spotlight on stepchildren and stepfamilies in recent decades, making them a prominent focus of research.
Family Structure, Family Process, and Youth Outcomes
In the early 21st century, research on stepfamilies consistently demonstrates that some children in stepfamily households are at risk for academic, psychological, and behavioral problems (Amato, 2001; Bray & Easling, 2005; Jeynes, 2006). Research dating back to the 1980s showed that children in stepfamilies report significantly less support and less discipline from stepfathers as well as less family cohesion than children from intact biological families (Amato, 1987). Compared to children raised by their biological parents, children in stepfamilies spend less time with and have less access to a father, even when combining time with and access to both nonresident fathers and stepfathers (Hofferth & Anderson, 2003). Research suggests that some stepchildren, as adolescents, persistently exhibit...
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