Despite the modern advances in social sciences, there are numerous negative connotations associated with blended families, some of which are based on facts. The construct is sometimes viewed as inferior to traditional pairings because the new spouse does not have the same parental attachment to the children. The perception may be accurate at times, but in most families, the members learn to live in harmony. The results of a ten-question interview, where the single ten-year-old son came from the mother’s side, are detailed below.
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The first question was the duration of the remarriage, which would indicate whether it has proven itself to be stable. The family I interviewed has been together for four years, with the pair having considered marriage for a year beforehand. The duration is likely sufficient for the formation of family bonds and the discovery and resolution of various potential issues. The family should be stable and capable of supporting itself, though further questions may reveal lingering concerns.
The second question was the reason why the wife ended her relationship with her prior spouse. She answered that she and her first husband found that they could not understand each other and communicate, having conceived a child before deciding to marry, and chose to divorce. Ganong and Coleman (2016) note that such dynamics create loyalty conflicts for the child, complicating stepfamily relationships. They would be especially prevalent if the father visited frequently.
The third question concerned such appearances and the overall degree of the man’s attachment to the child. The family answered that he lived a considerable distance away but still organized monthly trips where he would take the boy out for a day in the city or an amusement park. It does not appear that the father is overly possessive of the child, preventing him from integrating into his new home.
The fourth question was the opinion of the boy about his stepfather at the time of the interview. Asked separately, the husband claimed that the child had opened up and accepted him, while the mother shared the opinion that he still held some reservations but understood that the man had good intentions. The responses revealed that there are yet opinions and dynamics the family did not share.
The fifth question concerned the initial opinion of the child soon after the remarriage. Both parents admitted that the boy did not accept the man immediately despite having been introduced to him and frequently interacting for some months before the formalization of the relationship. The stepfather claimed that he must have intimidated the child due to his size, which was considerably bigger than that of the biological father, while the mother thought her son was confused by the change.
The sixth question was about the introduction itself and the child’s reception of it. The family claimed that they took the slow approach, first having the man and the boy interact briefly, then going to various attractions together, and finally having the future stepfather visit the mother’s house. The child had reacted warily, though not with immediate rejection, and the response intensified after the perceived home invasion.
The seventh question was about the strategies employed by the parents to bring the family together. There were no coordinated efforts to that effect beyond occasional group outings. The father claimed that he did not understand how to approach the child and preferred to let him take the first steps. According to Gold (2016), the approach is more effective than trying to be a friend. Nevertheless, it may be too passive and lead to tension and a lack of mutual understanding.
The eighth question was whether the family had any religious inclinations and involved the child in them. The husband claimed to be non-religious, and the wife belonged to the United Methodist Church. Nevertheless, both attended mass on Sundays along with the boy to promote family unity and as a social gathering. The child had been baptized soon after his birth but was not brought up in an overtly religious context.
The ninth question was about the challenges and difficulties before the family at the moment. The husband believed that the situation was going well, with the adaptation process progressing steadily, while the mother worried about the onset of adolescence. She thought that the child might become rebellious and ruin the developments that had taken place before the integration was complete. The stepfather was aware of her concerns but believed they could be overcome.
The tenth and final question was about the family’s plans to have another child and the role of the son in their formation. Both parents expressed the desire to have a baby, but they are uncertain as to the timing. They can support it, but fear the division the birth would cause, alienating the son and potentially themselves from each other. Their current plan is to try for a baby when the first child becomes a teenager and grows more independent.
The interview revealed that the family was doing somewhat well, though there were some areas of concern. The stepfather did not try to force a relationship, though he might have been too distant as a result. The biological father did not appear to be intentionally disrupting the family. Nevertheless, the developments that were likely to occur shortly may hinder the growth of a close and healthy bond between the three members.
Ganong, L., & Coleman, M. (2016). Stepfamily relationships: Development, dynamics, and interventions. New York, NY: Springer.
Gold, J. M. (2016). Stepping in, stepping out: Creating stepfamily rhythm. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.