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Feature Article


Stages of Stepfamily Development

Diane Kerns, Human Development Specialist, Livingston County, University of Missouri Extension

Most stepfamilies start and continue through several stages of development while building their new family relationships. The following is taken from Step by Step: Creating Strong Stepfamilies by Kim Leon, former Assistant Professor and State Specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Honeymoon/Fantasy Stage:
During this time adults in the family may feel very positive about the relationships with the family, while children may have mixed feelings. Adults and children have differing thoughts and expectations (parents may expect instant “love” between stepfamily members while children may fantasize about biological parents reuniting).

Chaos Stage:
Children may feel they are being disloyal to a parent if they begin liking the stepparent. Parents may desire a relationship similar to their first while feeling like they are in the “middle” of their new mate and their children. Some stepparents may feel left out while struggling with conflicts about money, discipline, household routines and rules.

Awareness Stage:
During this stage adults become aware that problems are common and that changes may need to occur, yet family members also realize that they can only change their own behavior.

Action Stage:
Issues are identified and addressed, sometimes by way of a support group or counseling. Adults unify to strengthen their own relationship and try hard to understand how each family member feels about individual situations.

Commitment Stage:
Relationships become stronger as stepfamilies realize that by working together, they can work things out and begin building their own history and traditions.



Last Updated 05/12/2009


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