Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Fresh Breeze for Stepfamilies

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Fresh Breeze for Stepfamilies

Article excerpt

READY for some good news?

1) Second marriages tend to be happier than first marriages - if you can get past the first five years.

2) Eighty percent of children in stepfamilies do not have damaging emotional problems.

These happy statistics are as welcome as a fresh breeze to members of stepfamilies, who often lug around a secret burden of dread about choices they've made.

The findings come from new longitudinal studies that track families through divorce and remarriage. For the first time, they're looking at not only what can go wrong in stepfamilies, but what can go right. And the research is yielding practical tips for successful stepfamily living.

You've heard the numbers - the divorce rate among second marriages is about 60 percent, even higher than for first marriages. Second marriages tend to fail in the first two years, primarily because of child-related problems.

Yet after five years or more, remarried couples report greater marital satisfaction than couples in first marriages. And that's great news, because happy marriages are a great source of stability to children, found Jan Lawton, an Australian psychologist who specializes in stepfamily research.

The lesson here? Be patient. Before you judge your stepfamily and remarriage a success or failure, wait five years. You might be surprised at how well it works out in the long run.

At the University of Virginia, psychologist Mavis Hetherington studied a group of post-divorce families over time, including many remarriages. In 20 percent of the children in stepfamilies, she detected depression, conduct disorders, delinquency and trouble in school. But the other 80 percent of children exhibited resilience and few such problems. …

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