Definition of Stepfamily

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A stepfamily is a family where one parent has children that are not related to the other parent. Either one or both parents may have children from a previous relationship. Children from a stepfamily may live with one biological parent and visit their other biological parent, or they may live with each biological parent for a period of time.[1]A stepfather is the husband of one's mother and not one's natural father.[2] A stepmother is one's father’s wife and not one's natural mother.[3]

The traditional and strictest definition of a "stepfamily" is a married couple where one or both members of the couple have pre-existing children who live with them.[4] More recently, the definition is often expanded to include all cohabiting couples, whether married or not.[5] Some people also apply the term to non-custodial relationships, where "stepparent" can refer to the partner of a parent with whom the child does not live.[6] The term is not generally used (but can be in individual cases) to refer to the relationship with an adult child who never lived in the home with the parent's new partner.

A stepfamily can be "simple," in which only one member of the couple has a prior child or children, or it can be "complex" or "blended." In a blended stepfamily, both members of the couple may have had pre-existing children, or the couple may have additional children together. If both members of the couple have prior children, the children are stepbrothers and stepsisters to one another. Any subsequent child born to the couple becomes the half-sister or half-brother of the prior children from previous relations.

If a stepparent legally adopts the partner's child or children, he or she becomes their legal parent. In such cases they may stop using the terms "stepparent" and "stepchild" and simply refer to the child as their son or daughter. However, some of the emotional and psychological issues common to stepfamilies may still persist.

In many cases, a family member is just as bonded with his/her stepfamily as with the biological family.

Read other Stepfamily Articles