Wednesday, January 26th, 2011 | Author: mjward

Is it better or not for stepchildren to be adopted by their stepparents? Researchers recently compared adopted and non-adopted stepchildren with children growing up in other family types. They conducted a large survey of children up to the age of seventeen who lived in married-couple households which included two biological parents, two adoptive parents, and one biological and one stepparent. They compared adopted and non-adopted children with each other and with those in other married-family types.

The most important finding was that there was quite little difference among the children. All were similar as to school achievement. Children who did not live with two biological parents did have more emotional and behavior problems. None, however, scored in the clinical range. The authors of the study believe that this shows the basic ability of children to adapt to the families they are in.

A more detailed comparison shows that young adopted stepchildren’s families are most similar to biological two-parent families. Older adopted step-children are most like non-adopted stepchildren. The authors speculate that these resemblances may be the result of the age of the child at adoption and/or the length of time between formation of the stepfamily and the adoption. They also caution against lumping together all adopted children because there are differences between those adopted by unrelated parents and by a stepparent.

School performance and emotional and behavioral problems aren’t the only aspects of family life. A whole view would consider relationships between parents and children, between siblings, and with community members. The security provided by adoption may, in the long term, also affect the well-being of children. All families have their strengths and weaknesses. Rather than looking at which families do better, it is more useful to look at the strengths of the various family forms and their challenges. That way, each family can be encouraged to build on its strengths.


Source:Stewart, S. D. (2010). The characteristics and well-being of adopted stepchildren. Family Relations, 59, 558-571.

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