17 Pages

Stepfamilies from the Child’s Perspective: From Stepfamily to Close Relationships

WithAino Ritala-Koskinen

Looking at earlier research into the stepfamily or at the public debate that is going on about the stepfamily (see, e.g., Ritala-Koskinen, 1993), it is hard to avoid the conclusion that children are centrally important to the stepfamily; indeed the stepfamily does not really exist without children. Typically, the stepfamily is defined as a family in which at least one of the spouses has been married before, who has divorced and brought along at least one child into the new family. This means that at least one of the two parents is not the biological parent of all children in the stepfamily household. All typologies that have been presented of the stepfamily take not only the second marriage but also children as important criteria for classifying the family into this or that category: Do the spouses have children from their previous or current marriage? Do all or some of the children from the previous marriage live in this household? Do children from the previous marriage visit the household? (e.g., Essess & Campbell, 1984; Ihinger-Tallman & Pasley, 1989; Krähenbühl et al., 1986; Liljeström & Kollind, 1990; Schwartz, 1984; see also Ritala-Koskinen, 1993). Research into stepfamilies has rarely devoted specific attention to marriages in which there are no children. Clearly, researchers prefer to define stepfamilies as new families formed by adults and also including children from previous marriages.