This last discussion will be considered a casual conversation.
So now we are divorced. What do we do with our lives? Assuming we didn’t get divorced because we already had someone to remarry, the statistics show that many people will remarry within 5 years (more men than women), however even this number is declining. Instead of marrying again many divorced people are choosing to cohabit with a partner rather than get married. However, whether legally married or living together the dynamics of step-families are different. After reading Chapter 14 and the weekly resource page, consider this abstract from a 1977 article in the Journal of Clinical Child Psychology:
“Remarriage is a potential crisis for children, comparable to divorce. Losses incurred by divorce are often not ameliorated, and remarriage presents additional tasks and psychological complexities. Children of remarriage must negotiate major structural and relationship changes in the family system. Remarriage usually occurs before children have integrated divorce and resolved grief over the loss of a parent. The presence of a stepparent may accentuate the child’s loss, provoke competition for the remaining parent, and elicit conflicts in loyalty. Our society allows adults to have multiple marriages, but children are reared to love and trust only their natural parents.” Thies, Jill Matthews. 1977. Beyond divorce: The impact of remarriage on children, in Divorce: Its Impact Upon Children and YouthSpecial Issue. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, Volume 6, Issue 2. (Our library has the full article if you want to read it. Just go to the library link, enter your ID, go to the journals section and look for the journal. Let me know if you need more help.)
Keeping in mind that this abstract was written in 1977 consider whether the items mentioned just in the abstract are still valid concerns today. For this week’s discussion consider the following prompts and choose at least one from Part I and respond to Part II. As always you may comment on as many as you would like.
Part I: Think about the concepts.
1) Given the large number of stepfamilies, why are obligations and expectations for them so vague? How might this lack of specific assigned roles, especially for step-parents, affect stepfamilies? If, as the abstract above says, we expect children to only love and trust their natural parents how can the step-parent participate in the raising of children? Could we develop any policies as a society that could help to strengthen stepfamilies, whether they are legally married or cohabiting?
2) Why does the “evil stepmother” stereotype exist today? It seems this stereotype doesn’t matter if the people are married or not. But why isn’t there one with stepfathers given the statistics that children are more likely to be abused by their non-blood related male caregivers? Consider this article (Links to an external site.)that presents data that children residing with their single mother’s cohabiting boyfriend are 11 times more likely to become the victim of child abuse. Sadly these are not new findings but a pattern that has developed over many years. Why does this scenario happen? Why would the mere presence of a legal document mitigate these odds?
Part II: Applying the concepts.
When considering your family, what does their lives look like after divorce (Create a family: Survive and thrive). How do they work together to make sure their child/children get to experience the best relationship with both of their parents? Imagine that both of your aduts remarried, how does that affect the parenting of the child/children? While these are very tough topics to deal with and many of you may have personal expericence with this topic, I hope that using your made up family will minimize any discomfort for you. If you are willing to share personal experiences and lessons learned in this issue please feel free to do so.