Family Psychology: The Art of the Science

By William M. Pinsof; Jay L. Lebow | Go to book overview

11
Remarriage and Stepfamilies

James H. Bray

Irene Easling

S tepfamilies are a fast-growing family structure in the United States due to the high divorce rate and numbers of children born outside of marriage (Bramlett & Mosher, 2001; U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1992). Many adults and children will experience multiple divorces and remarriages during their lifetime, as the divorce rate for second and subsequent marriages is even higher than that for first marriages. Before adulthood, about a third of U.S. children will live in a remarried or cohabiting stepfamily (Bumpass, Raley, & Sweet, 1995; Seltzer, 1994). It is likely that about 40% of adult women will live in a remarried or cohabiting stepfamily as a parent or stepparent at some time, and 40% of all families include step-grandparents (Szinovacz, 1998).

There are several demographic trends that contribute to the increased numbers of stepfamilies. These include the high divorce and remarriage rates and the increase in numbers of children born outside of marriage. It is not possible to get exact numbers and percentages concerning these demographic changes because the federal government and many states have stopped collecting information about marriage, divorce, and remarriage, as was the case with the 2000 U.S. Census.

This chapter reviews the literature on stepfamilies and remarriages and some of the findings from the Developmental Issues in Stepfamilies (DIS) Research Project, which investigated the longitudinal impact of divorce and remarriage on children's social, emotional, and cognitive development (Bray, 1988, 1999; Bray & Berger, 1993a, 1993b; Bray & Kelly, 1998). The DIS study was a multimethod, multiperspective study of parents, children, and extended family members that included extensive interviews, psychological assessments, family assessments, and videotapes of family interactions. The data provide a rich source of information about divorce and remarriage and their impact on children and adults.

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