14 Pages

Stepfamilies from a Historical Perspective

WithRoderick Phillips

As the articles in this volume attest, stepfamilies have come to constitute a prominent feature of the modem Westem family system. Depending on the use to be made of the data, the incidence of stepfamilies is expressed in various ways, but it is generally given as the proportion that households containing stepfamilies represent among all households or as the proportion of children living in stepfamilies. It is variously estimated that in the United States about one in six (17 percent) of married-couple family households is a stepfamily (Orleans, Palisi, Caddell, 1989: 371), and that about one child in six is a stepchild (Burchardt, 1989: 293). These are, of course, broad-based statistics that hide significant variations by region, class and by ethnic group, but they indicate the dimensions of the phenomenon in what might well be the country with the highest incidence of stepfamilies in the Western world.