Stepfamilies
 
Estimated Number of Printed Pages: 5
 
TOPICS COVERED: In this page, we have some information regarding stepfamilies – from the present prevalence of them to how common they were historically. For facts relating to larger issues – such as the prevalence of divorce, effect of divorce on children – see the Related Pages.
 
MEMOS ON RELATED INFORMATION: Divorce, Family Dissolution, Single Parents, Children, Family Structures
 
Links to Sources for this material are available below. Please also see The Factbook Sources page for further information regarding Factbook sources and their availability.
 

STEPFAMILIES


 
One-third –
Estimated proportion of all Americans who – through birth, divorce, and remarriage – are part of a stepfamily. 1.
 
 
 
5.1 million
Number of U.S. children living with at least one stepparent. 2.
 
 
 
4.9 million
Number of U.S. children living with a biological parent and a stepparent. Of these, 4.1 million of these children live with a biological mother and a stepfather. 3.
 
 
 
10 percent
of U.S. children – 7.3 million children – live with a half-sibling. 4.
 
 
 
One percent
of U.S. children live with a stepsibling. 5.
 
 
 
14.6 percent
of U.S. minor children live in a blended family – where they are either the stepchild of a parent, and/or have stepsiblings or half-siblings. 6.
 
 
 
If you find those numbers shocking – well, they are almost nothing, compared to Colonial times . . . .
In southern Maryland between 1658 and 1705, 67 percent of the married or widowed men who died left behind a family of all minor children. If the children were fortunate, they'd find themselves in a stepfamily – the product of their mother's quick remarriage. If not, the children could become wards of the state, apprenticed to a tradesman, or even sold as slaves. 7.

 
 
My step-stepmother –
Because so many died young in some of the American colonies, it was not uncommon in those areas for single men and women to marry spouses who were considerably older than they were and already had children. Then, if their spouse died, the young widow or widower would soon remarry, bringing both biological and stepchildren into the new marriage . . . which was often to another spouse who also already had children – including stepchildren. The result was not just that colonial families were "blended families" – meaning they had both step and biological children – but also regularly included children not biologically related to either parent. 8.
 
 
 
Cinderella's fate – a dead father and a cruel stepmother – would have been much more real – and upsetting – to a child in the American colonies than today's stepchild:
Cruel treatment by stepparents was commonplace in the colonies. If stepparents were blatantly abusive, a county court could step in and remove a child from a home. But having a child work – even to the point of near slavery – would not have been considered abuse, since the law provided for stepparents to be reimbursed for whatever they used to raise a stepchild. And if there was no money to do that, they were entitled to have a child work to earn her keep. 9.

 
 
The more things change . . . .
Only five U.S. states require that a stepparent help financially provide for his stepchild. 10.
 
 
 
At Higher Risk
Studies have shown that a report of a child's maltreatment is twice as likely to be filed when there is a father-surrogate instead of two-biological parents in the house, while stepfather-caregivers are more likely than biological fathers to sexually and physically abuse the children under their care. Stepfathers also involved in a slightly higher number of reported family violence incidents. 11.
 
 
 
Disadvantaged –
children living with a parent and stepparent are more disadvantaged in terms of psychological functioning, behavioral problems, education, and health than a child raised by both biological parents. 12.
 
 
 
If a stepchild yells, "He can't tell me what to do!"
technically, she's right. Stepparents in the U.S. have no legal relationship with their stepchildren, even if they live together. Therefore, they have no legal right to discipline a child. They can't authorize emergency treatment or even sign a school report card. In fact, stepparents have less legal authority over stepchildren than a legal guardian or a foster parent. 13.
 
 
 
Three percent
of the 45.5 million U.S. households with children of any age have only stepchildren. 14.
 
 
 
0.1 percent
of all 45.5. million U.S. households with children include the householder's biological children and adopted children and stepchildren. 15.
 
 
 
Approximately 271,000
unmarried men in the U.S have stepchildren living in their households. 16.
 
 
 
198,000 –
Of the 271,000 unmarried men with stepchildren, 198,000 of them are living with a female unmarried partner. And therefore it's likely they are considering themselves stepfathers of their unmarried partner's children. 17.
 
 
 
90 percent
of stepchildren in the U.S. live with a householder who is in the labor force. 18.
 
 
 
67 percent
of stepchildren in the U.S. live in a home that is owned and occupied by the householder. That is the same percentage as for biological children. 19.
 
 
 
Between 30 and 40 percent
of stepchildren in the U.S. will go through the divorce of their custodial parent and stepparent. 20.
 
 
 
Almost every state in the U.S. ends a stepparent-stepchild relationship if the biological parent divorces or dies. And in most states, a stepparent has no legal right for custody of a stepchild – not even a right of visitation. 21.
 
 
 
North Dakota
is the only state that requires a stepparent to provide for the stepchildren once the stepparent has divorced the biological parent. 22.
 
 
 
Four percent
of Australian families with children age 0-17 are stepfamilies (98,600 families). 23.
 
 
 
Three percent
of Australian families with children age 0-17 are blended families (78,100 families): they have a stepchild but also have a child born to both parents. 24.
 
 
 
Ten percent
of all families with dependent children in the U.K. are stepfamilies. 80 percent of these consist of a biological mother and stepfather. 25.
 
 
 
0.7 million
Number of stepfamilies with dependent children in the U.K. 26.
 
 
 
Eight percent
of British married couple families with dependent children are stepfamilies – 0.4 million families. 27.
 
 
 
38 percent
of British cohabiting couples with dependent children are stepfamilies – 0.3 million families. 28.
 
 
 
57 percent
of British married-couple stepfamilies also have biological children from the marriage. 29.
 
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1. Anne C. Jones, "Reconstructing the Stepfamily: Old Myths, New Stories," Social Work. (April 1, 2003). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?docid=1G1:100767739
2. Rose M. Kreider and Jason Fields, Living Arrangements of Children: 2001, Current Population Reports, P70-104. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (July 2005), p. 2 Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p70-104.pdf
3. As of 2001. Rose M. Kreider and Jason Fields, Living Arrangements of Children: 2001, Current Population Reports, P70-104. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (July 2005), p. 2 Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p70-104.pdf
4. Rose M. Kreider and Jason Fields, Living Arrangements of Children: 2001, Current Population Reports, P70-104. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (July 2005), p. 5 Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p70-104.pdf
5. Rose M. Kreider and Jason Fields, Living Arrangements of Children: 2001, Current Population Reports, P70-104. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (July 2005), p. 5 Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p70-104.pdf
6. Rose M. Kreider and Jason Fields, Living Arrangements of Children: 2001, Current Population Reports, P70-104. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (July 2005), p. 8 Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p70-104.pdf
7. Lorena S. Walsh, "'Till Death Us Do Part': Marriage and Family in Seventeenth Century Maryland," The Chesapeake in the Seventeenth Century: Essays on Anglo-American Society, Thad W. Tate and David L. Ammerman, eds., Univ. of North Carolina Press (1979) pp. 143-144 (citation omitted). Available through: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0807813605/qid=1123776483/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/104-0887680-4192712?v=glance&s=books
8. Lorena S. Walsh, "'Till Death Us Do Part': Marriage and Family in Seventeenth Century Maryland," The Chesapeake in the Seventeenth Century: Essays on Anglo-American Society, Thad W. Tate and David L. Ammerman, eds., Univ. of North Carolina Press (1979) pp. 132 (citation omitted). Available through: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0807813605/qid=1123776483/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/104-0887680-4192712?v=glance&s=books
9. Lorena S. Walsh, "'Till Death Us Do Part': Marriage and Family in Seventeenth Century Maryland," The Chesapeake in the Seventeenth Century: Essays on Anglo-American Society, Thad W. Tate and David L. Ammerman, eds., Univ. of North Carolina Press (1979) pp. 144 (citation omitted). Available through: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0807813605/qid=1123776483/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/104-0887680-4192712?v=glance&s=books
10. Anne C. Jones, "Reconstructing the Stepfamily: Old Myths, New Stories," Social Work. (April 1, 2003). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?docid=1G1:100767739
11. _______, "Male Perpetrators of Child Maltreatment: Findings from NCANDS," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (January 2005) pp. 1-2, 13, and 15. Archived at: http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/05/child-maltreat/report.pdf
12. Sheila B. Kamerman, Michelle Neuman, Jane Waldfogel, and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Social Policies, Family Types, and Child Outcomes in Selected OECD countries, OECD Social, Employment, and Migration Working Papers, No.6 (May 20, 2003), p. 22 (citations omitted). Archived at: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/26/46/2955844.pdf
13. Anne C. Jones, "Reconstructing the Stepfamily: Old Myths, New Stories," Social Work. (April 1, 2003) (citation omitted). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?docid=1G1:100767739
14. Rose M. Kreider, Adopted Children and Stepchildren: 2000, Census Special Reports, CENSR-6RV. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (2003), p. 18. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/censr-6.pdf
15. Rose M. Kreider, Adopted Children and Stepchildren: 2000, Census Special Reports, CENSR-6RV. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (2003), pp. 18-19. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/censr-6.pdf
16. Rose M. Kreider, Adopted Children and Stepchildren: 2000, Census Special Reports, CENSR-6RV. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (2003), p. 3. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/censr-6.pdf
17. Rose M. Kreider, Adopted Children and Stepchildren: 2000, Census Special Reports, CENSR-6RV. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (2003), p. 3. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/censr-6.pdf
18. Rose M. Kreider, Adopted Children and Stepchildren: 2000, Census Special Reports, CENSR-6RV. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (2003), p. 17. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/censr-6.pdf
19. Rose M. Kreider, Adopted Children and Stepchildren: 2000, Census Special Reports, CENSR-6RV. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (2003), p. 17. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/censr-6.pdf
20. Anne C. Jones, "Reconstructing the Stepfamily: Old Myths, New Stories," Social Work. (April 1, 2003). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?docid=1G1:100767739
21. Anne C. Jones, "Reconstructing the Stepfamily: Old Myths, New Stories," Social Work. (April 1, 2003). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?docid=1G1:100767739
22. Anne C. Jones, "Reconstructing the Stepfamily: Old Myths, New Stories," Social Work. (April 1, 2003). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?docid=1G1:100767739
23. _______, "4442.0 Family Characteristics, Australia," Australian Bureau of Statistics (updated March 15, 2005). Accessed at http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/5087e58f30c6bb25ca2568b60010b303/e6a9286119fa0a85ca25699000255c89!OpenDocument on August 28, 2005.
24. _______, "4442.0 Family Characteristics, Australia," Australian Bureau of Statistics (updated March 15, 2005). Accessed at http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/5087e58f30c6bb25ca2568b60010b303/e6a9286119fa0a85ca25699000255c89!OpenDocument on August 28, 2005.
25. As of 2001. ________, "Stepfamilies: 10% of families are stepfamilies," National Statistics Online, National Statistics, United Kingdom (July 7, 2005). Accessed at: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=1164 on December 28, 2005. Compare that to other estimates of around four percent – the difference, however, may be that other source just includes married couple families. Ceridwen Roberts, The Situation of Families in the UK, 1997-2002, European Observatory on Family Matters (2002), p. 2 (citation omitted). Archived at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/eoss/downloads/gm_02_uk_roberts_en.pdf
26. As of 2001. ________, "Stepfamilies: 10% of families are stepfamilies," National Statistics Online, National Statistics, United Kingdom (July 7, 2005). Accessed at: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=1164 on December 28, 2005.
27. As of 2001. ________, "Stepfamilies: 10% of families are stepfamilies," National Statistics Online, National Statistics, United Kingdom (July 7, 2005). Accessed at: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=1164 on December 28, 2005.
28. As of 2001. ________, "Stepfamilies: 10% of families are stepfamilies," National Statistics Online, National Statistics, United Kingdom (July 7, 2005). Accessed at: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=1164 on December 28, 2005.
29. As of 2001. ________, "Stepfamilies: 10% of families are stepfamilies," National Statistics Online, National Statistics, United Kingdom (July 7, 2005). Accessed at: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=1164 on December 28, 2005.