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Report Shines Spotlight on Step-Family Relationships

A recent report by relationship Relate and Relationships Scotland have given an interesting insight into the relationships between step-parents and their stepchildren, and how these relationships compare to that of biological parents.

Stepmums Find Step-Relationships the Hardest

The research revealed that stepmums apparently have the hardest time in building a good relationship with their stepchildren, with 65% of stepdads reporting good relationships with their stepchildren compared to just 57% of stepmums.

Overall, step-parents' relationships with children are of a lower quality than that of biological parents – only 61% of step-parents said they had a good relationship with their stepchildren, compared to the 91% who reported good relationships with their own children.

“These findings indicate some of the challenges families can face following the breakdown of a relationship and blending families,” commented Professor Tanya Byron, Clinical Psychologist and Relate Patron. “People might think it’s inevitable and no cause for concern that some stepmums and stepchildren are struggling to build good quality relationships. Yet step-families make up 11% of families with dependent children in the UK – that’s over half a million families. If many aren’t getting on, it’s a real threat to the wellbeing of a huge group of people.” 

“Stepmums can feel pressure to be maternal and are more likely to face rejection from their stepchildren, and stepkids can find themselves caught between biological parents and new family members,” she added. “A key piece of advice is not to rush things – start by getting to know your step-children rather than trying to be a parent. Take an interest in them but bear in mind that love and trust are things that take time to develop.”

Extra Pressures at Christmas

The charities have also highlighted that Christmas is often a time when issues within blended families are at their most apparent.

In January 2016, Relate saw a 39% increase in calls to their national phone line and a 31% increase in users of their national website. The charity is anticipating a similar spike this New Year, compounded by step-families clashing at Christmas.

Other family organisations have also reported experiencing a sharp rise in demand for their services following the festive period. National Family Mediation regularly experiences an increased demand for mediation services at the start of the year, as couples’ relationships falter under the extra financial and family pressures associated with the holidays.

Happy Families?

These findings from Relate and Relationships Scotland are contained in a report entitled ‘Happy Families?’ which is the second in a series of reports from a major piece of research conducted by the charities.

The report also found that:

  • More than eight-in-ten (81%) people report good relationships with their mum.
  • Three-quarters (75%) report good relationships with their dad.
  • 70% report good relationships with siblings.
  • 88% of grandparents report good relationships with their grandchildren.
  • 71% of grandchildren report good relationships with their grandparents.
  • 41% of people who had a child under 19 reported money worries caused strain on their relationships, compared to 26% of those without a child under 19.
  • 16% of parents with children aged 11-18 identified household chores as a relationship strain, compared to almost a third (32%) of parents with children aged 0-5.

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