Topic 4

Development Stage of Parenting and Family Life
Building Block 2:  Families with Preschoolers
Topic 4: Introduction to Blended Families
Terms to Identify Families

The composition of typical American families has changed dramatically during the last 20 years. The "traditional family" — once identified as a married couple who are the biological parents of the children in the household with father working outside of the home and mother in the role of homemaker — represents less than 16% of today's families.

As a result, many terms have emerged to identify family units. These include:

  • Married nuclear family

  • Cohabiting family

  • Single-parent family

  • Blended or step-family

  • Grandparent-led family

  • Single gender parents

  • Commuter family

  • Foster and group-home family

  • Community family

Statistics about Today's Families

While the majority of individuals over the age of thirty grew-up in a "traditional" or nuclear family, 74% of today's households are single parent or blended families

Trends suggest that within the next five years, 50% of American families with children under the age of 18 will be blended families.

Another way to look at it...Another way to look at it:

80% of the children under the age of 15 will live some portion of their lives in either single parent or blended families.


Blended families are becoming representative of the majority of American families and a variety of issues influence their success. With over 20 million blended families in the United States, issues related to both the success and failures of these systems are emerging. 

Chief among the issues:

Statistics indicate that 70% to 80% of second marriages fail within the first three years.

Specific issues can be seen in the lists of "Challenges" (below) that face adults and children in blended families. More issues are presented in the "Blended Families with…" sections in this Block and in Block 3.

Challenges Facing Adults

A major challenge facing parents in a blended family is the lack of understanding of their own motives and needs in relation to those of the children. The majority of parents in blended families were raised in traditional families with their biological parents. They often report concerns that include:

  • Differences in parenting styles from their spouse

  • Insecurities about their lack of biological relations with the children

  • Feeling like an outsider from the biological parent and child 

  • Failing to bond with the children

  • A lack of history

  • Jealousy

  • Fear

  • Lack of experience

  • Difficult relations with the spouse's ex

Challenges for Children
  • Failure to bond

  • Anxiety

  • Resentment

  • Wishful Thinking

  • Fear of being disloyal to the other parent

  • Insec