Step-families or blended families are a family unit where one or both parents have been married before. Each has lost a spouse through divorce or death, and one or both of them have children from their previous marriage. They fall in love and decide to remarry or live together, and in turn, form a new, blended family that includes children from one or both of their first households.

The primary difference between a blended family and a normal family is Step-families merge unrelated parents and children into a family unit. This difference can raise issues such as:

  • Step-families ultimately result from a loss, death of a parent/spouse, divorce, end of a long-term relationship, changes in lifestyle (e.g., moving, loss of job), and, therefore, involve grief on the part of both parents and children. This grief may remain unresolved and affect step-family relationships.
  • Children in step-families are members of two households and, as a result, may experience confusion, discipline issues, loss of stability, and conflicting feelings of loyalty.
  • The role of the stepparent and status in the family is often unclear with regard to authority, level of involvement with the stepchild, and discipline. In addition, no legal relationship exists between stepparents and stepchildren.
  • Stepparents must assume parental roles before there is an emotional bond with the stepchild and are often required to make instant adjustments to a parental role. In contrast, biological parents bond with their child as the child grows.
  • Step-families must cope with outside influences and ongoing change due to issues with the other biological parent and family members.


Stepfamily. (n.d.). Encyclopedia of Children’s Health. Retrieved June 24, 2008, from Web site:

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