Observe the effects of a poor stepparent relationship

observe the effects of a poor stepparent relationship

Emotional Abuse in Committed Relationships: Effects on Children Observing a parent abused is the more profound form of child abuse. In evolutionary psychology, the Cinderella effect is the phenomenon of higher incidence of In the early s, a theory arose on the connection between stepparents and child maltreatment. . respect to these factors were found, indicating that none of these are major contributing factors to the observed Cinderella effect. "Early in remarriage, the most successful stepparent-stepchild relationships are Let's look at three positive relationship styles that give way to parental authority. She has my permission to enforce the consequences. a bridge with the stepparent, the stepchildren will receive an unhealthy amount of power in the home.

In addition, children are likely to suffer where the absence of their father from the home means that they have lost effective contact with him. Two pieces of evidence, in particular, weigh against it. First, children whose parents separated do worse than children who have experienced a parental bereavement.

Biblarz and Gottainer found that, compared with children of widowed mothers, children of divorced mothers had significantly lower levels of education, occupational status and happiness in adulthood. They found no evidence that divorced mothers were less competent parents than widowed mothers and speculated that the contrasting positions in the social structure of different types of single-mother families may account for observed differences in child outcomes.

In particular, they note that widows occupied an advantaged position in the social structure, in terms of employment, financial position and occupational status, compared with divorced mothers. This suggests that the absence of the father, if it has an effect, has a much weaker effect than that of these economic factors.

Secondly, as has already been noted, remarriage does not generally improve the wellbeing of children, despite the gain of another adult to help with the task of parenting. As a number of studies have noted, outcomes for children in remarried families are generally little different from those of children in sole-parent families.

It is important to note also that remarriage generally results in an improvement in economic circumstances. As noted above, there appears to be something associated with stepfamilies — perhaps the complexities of the new pattern of relationships that need to be established and worked at before the family can settle down into new comfortable ways of living together — that weighs against both the economic gain and the gain of an additional adult figure.

Once again, this suggests that the absence of the father, by itself, does not play a strong role in explaining the differences between children from divorced and intact families. The pathways that connect separation, maternal mental health and child wellbeing are somewhat complex and are likely to operate via the route of impairments to parenting.

The process of separation can take a toll on the mental health of separating parents, which can in turn impair the quality of parenting.

observe the effects of a poor stepparent relationship

On the other hand, where custodial mothers are psychologically able to provide a loving, effective parent—child relationship, children will be buffered from the stress divorce engenders and will tend to prosper developmentally Kalter et al. However, when economic deprivation, interparental hostility and the burdens of single parenting take their toll on the mental health of custodial mothers, children will tend to fare less well. Interparental Conflict The connection between marital separation and marital conflict is complex.

Clearly the two factors are interrelated, in that at the time of a marital dissolution the separating partners are likely to be at odds and many are involved in serious conflict. Hanson reported that about half of all couples who divorced exhibited high levels of conflict beforehand, compared with about one-quarter of families who remained continuously married.

However, the connection between marital separation and marital conflict is not at all straightforward, since some partners manage to separate on relatively amicable terms, while many marriages survive for long periods despite the presence of ongoing conflict.

To understand the relationship between marital conflict and separation, it is important to distinguish between conflict that precedes the separation and conflict that follows the separation. Many families experience conflict both before and after separation, so it is not possible to draw a clear demarcation in this way.

Nevertheless, in some cases a prolonged period of conflict is terminated when parents separate, while in other cases the separation itself provokes a round of conflict which may persist for years afterward. The evidence about the impact of separation and pre-separation conflict is somewhat complex. First, both marital conflict and separation have been found to be independently associated with child outcomes. Peterson and Zill found that marital conflict in intact homes, especially if persistent, was as harmful as separation.

Indeed, they found that scores on measures of overcontrolled and undercontrolled behaviour of children living amid persistent conflict were even higher than for those living with one biological parent.

However, many studies have also reported the presence of an interaction between separation and conflict, so that in high-conflict families children benefit when their parents divorce, while in low-conflict families children do worse when their parents divorce Amato et al.

Other studies show similar results, although with a twist.

observe the effects of a poor stepparent relationship

Hanson found that children exposed to low levels of parental conflict appeared to suffer disadvantages when their parents separated, although he also found that children exposed to high levels of parental conflict were neither better nor worse off, on average, when their parents divorced. Morrison and Coiro found that while their results did not indicate a benefit for children exiting high-conflict marriages problem behaviours among children increased after separation regardless of the level of conflict that predated the separationnevertheless the greatest increase in behaviour problems was observed among children whose parents remained married, despite very frequent quarrels.

All of these results indicate a complex relationship between marital conflict, separation and child outcomes. Taken together, they suggest that children in high-conflict families are likely to be better off, while children in low-conflict families are likely to be worse off, if their parents separate.

Booth and Amato note that: On the other hand, the evidence about post-separation conflict is much more straightforward. Bream and Buchanan found that, among a sample of children whose parents could not agree on arrangements for them, high proportions had significant adjustment problems: Children aged under seven were particularly vulnerable to such difficulties.

This equates to four times the rate that would be expected in the general population. Indeed, the rate of difficulties among these children was similar to that among a sample of children who were subject to care proceedings.

Stepfamilies - Better Health Channel

For this group the major benefit of the divorce — the cessation of parental hostilities — does not accrue.

Johnston notes that children of high-conflict divorces scored as significantly more disturbed, and were two to four times more likely to have the kinds of adjustment problems typically seen in children being treated for emotional and behavioural disturbance, when compared with national norms.

Conflict takes different forms and some types of conflict are especially damaging for children. Hetherington found that parental conflict that is about the child or directly involves the child, conflict that is physically violent, threatening or abusive, and conflict in which the child feels caught in the middle between two warring parents have the most adverse consequences for children. Even from this small selection of studies it seems clear that post-separation conflict between parents carries the risk of significant levels of adverse impacts on children.

Parenting and Parent—Child Relationships Various studies have shown that separation and divorce lead to disruptions in parenting practices. Compared with fathers in intact families, non-custodial fathers were less likely to provide their children with help in solving problems, to discuss standards of conduct or to enforce discipline.

This reduced involvement in parenting was associated with an increased probability that a boy would display conduct problems. Indeed, Simons et al. McLanahan and Bumpass investigated several hypotheses for the adverse childbearing and marital outcomes of children of divorced parents and concluded that parental role models and parental supervision were the major factors in determining the future family-formation behaviour of offspring. An unresolved issue is whether poor-quality family relationships arise as an effect of the divorce or whether these may have pre-dated and perhaps given rise to the divorce.

Cinderella effect - Wikipedia

This raises the possibility that the results reflect selection into divorce rather than demonstrating the effects of divorce. Prior to the marital disruption, families that broke down showed consistent signs of dysfunction on every indicator of family environment examined. However, it is also possible that this reflects selection effects. I turn now to an examination of such effects. However, it is also possible that the associations arise through non-causal mechanisms; in particular, through selection effects.

The discussion now turns to an examination of such effects. Several studies have demonstrated that many of the presumed effects of parental separation on children are evident many years in advance of the actual separation.

Elliott and Richards report that children whose parents divorced when they were between seven and 16 years old had worse scores on a range of measures of wellbeing than children whose parents remained married, not only at age 16 after the separation but also at age seven.

A question that arises is whether these results reflect the fact that the process of parental separation can take place over a long period while some families break down quickly, often in spectacular ways with much heat, in other families the process is a longer and slower burnor whether they result from selection effects that is to say, some parents bring into a marriage a set of characteristics that are likely both to raise the possibility that the marriage will break down and to heighten the risk of adverse outcomes for their children.

There are a number of characteristics that might perform such a role, such as poor mental health, antisocial behaviour and substance dependencies. Parents with such personal difficulties are likely to have greater difficulties both in maintaining stable and enduring intimate relationships and in providing their children with a family environment that is likely to promote their wellbeing.

Part of the patterns of association between parental separation and child outcomes might therefore simply reflect the fact that some adults are not well equipped either to perform well as a marriage partner or as a parent. Furstenberg and Teitler note that: Families that eventually divorce may be different in a variety of ways from those that do not long before marital disruption occurs.

They may be more likely to exhibit poor parenting practices, high levels of marital conflict, or suffer from persistent economic stress Sun found that, compared with parents that remain continuously married, parents who later divorce are more likely to have personal, sexual, psychological or financial problems throughout their marriage, and these problems continue to affect children negatively. Given the persistence of these problems, a separation may actually reduce the stress associated with such problems, resulting in relatively little further damage to child wellbeing.

In fact, delinquent behaviour reported when future mothers were single, childless adolescents prospectively predicted behaviour problems among their offspring 14 years later. Parental separation does not occur randomly, and the causes that underlie it may also be part of the explanation for the apparent impacts on children.

Studies of the impact of parental separation on children in adopted and biological families provide a window on this issue, since parents and children in biological families share both genes and environment, while parents and children in adoptive families share their environment but not their genes.

They found that, while biological and adopted children who had experienced a parental divorce displayed similarly elevated rates of behavioural problems and substance use compared with their peers in intact families, a different pattern was found for academic and social competence outcomes.

While children from biological families also had lower levels of academic achievement and social competence than their peers in intact families, there were no differences between adopted children in divorced and intact families. These results show that if genetic mechanisms are involved they have differential effects in different spheres of development.

While genetic risk was uncorrelated with the adjustment of adopted children in intact families, among children who had experienced a parental divorce there were substantial and significant associations between genetic risk and poor adjustment.

This result indicates a complex interplay between genetic and environmental factors: It appears, then, that genetic factors do play a role in the association between parental separation and child outcomes, although their impact varies across different outcome domains and interacts with environmental triggers. While consideration of this question is beyond the scope of the present paper, it will be useful to sketch out the promising results that have been achieved through one particular intervention, which indicates that there is indeed scope for effective action.

The exemplar intervention I have chosen to highlight is the New Beginnings Program in the United States, an intervention for custodial mothers following a separation, which was subject to a true experimental trial Wolchik et al. The programme involved randomised assignment to one of two treatment conditions a mother-only programme, involving 11 group sessions with other custodial mothers, plus two structured individual sessions and a dual component mother-plus-child programme, which also included 11 group sessions for the children or a control condition.

Participants who were assigned to the control condition were issued with books on adjustment to divorce. The sample was randomly drawn from divorce court records. Children in the study were followed up six years after the intervention. In particular, they exhibited reduced rates of mental disorders, reduced levels of externalising problems, reduced rates of substance abuse and reduced numbers of sexual partners. First, there is an abundance of evidence that children who experience a parental separation are, on average, worse off than their peers in intact families, on a number of measures of wellbeing.

However, the scale of the differences in wellbeing between the two groups of children is not large and most children are not adversely affected. Parental separation then bears down most heavily on a minority of children, generally in the presence of other exacerbating factors.

Underlying these effects are multiple mechanisms: These mechanisms do not operate independently, but are related in complex ways. This in turn can lead to compromised parenting behaviours. All of these factors can impact adversely on child wellbeing. Part of the effects also arise from non-causal mechanisms: Many of the difficulties have deeper roots that date from many years prior to the separation and are due to the fact that some parents bring into a marriage characteristics and behaviours — such as poor mental health, antisocial behaviour or substance addictions — that are likely both to jeopardise the success of the marriage and heighten the risk of poor child outcomes.

Furthermore, some of the associations between separation and child outcomes are due to genetic inheritance. One factor that plays a more complex role is interparental conflict. Conflict between parents plays a dual role, both as part of the explanation for the link between parental separation and child outcomes and as an independent influence on child outcomes. It is clear, nevertheless, that post-separation conflict which is bitter and ongoing and which places the children at the centre of disputation has highly malign effects on child wellbeing.

Yet this is a factor which is surely amenable to treatment. If separating couples can be helped to reduce levels of conflict following a separation, or at least to understand the importance of conducting their affairs out of the way of the children and in ways that do not implicate them, then this is likely to have significant benefits for the wellbeing of the children.

This suggests it would be useful to conduct further investigations to identify promising approaches that afford children protection from a parental separation that could be considered for trial in the New Zealand context. Relationship skills or commitment to marriage? Block, Jack, Jeanne H. Block and Per F. Blum, Heather Monroe, Michael H. Boyle and David R. Booth, Alan and Paul R. Cherlin and Kathleen E. Lindsay and Mavis E. John Horwood and Michael T.

Thus, from an evolutionary biology perspective, one would not expect organisms to regularly and deliberately care for unrelated offspring. Daly and Wilson point out that infanticide is an extreme form of biasing parental investment that is widely practiced in the animal world. Thus, according to Daly and Wilson, stepparental investment can be viewed as mating effort to ensure the possibility of future reproduction with the parent of their stepchild.

It is from this theoretical framework that Daly and Wilson argue that instances of child abuse towards non-biological offspring should be more frequent than towards biological offspring. Daly and Wilson report that this parental love can explain why genetic offspring are more immune to lashing out by parents.

This was accomplished by administering a randomized telephone survey. The results indicate that the only living situation that has a significant correlation to increased child abuse is one natural parent and one stepparent in the same household. While rates of running away and crime were comparable for children living with stepparents and children of single-parents, abuse rates for children living with stepparents were much higher.

Attachment theory Evolutionary psychologists have also suggested that one of the causes of stepchild abuse may be the lack of a parental attachment bond that the mother would normally form with her own child[ citation needed ].

An attachment bond will, in general, be more secure if formed before the age of two, and adoption can often disrupt the development of this bond. An infant who is fed by the primary parental figure, usually the mother, and has the mother present during severely physically painful events will have form a stronger parental attachment bond, and either a consistent omission of the mother from this process or an alteration between two people the original mother and the adoptive mother can cause either an insecure attachment or disorganized attachment from the parent to the child[ citation needed ].

As a result, it is highly recommended by most psychologists that the adoptive mother be present very early in the infant's life, preferably immediately after its birth, in order to avoid attachment disruptions and attachment disorders. However, their argument is based on a misunderstanding: Under this account, stepparental care is seen as "mating effort" towards the genetic parent, such that most interactions between stepparent and stepchildren will be generally positive or at least neutral, just usually not as positive as interactions between the genetic parent and the child would be.

Children are not only vulnerable to abuse by their parents, but they are also dependent on their parents for supervision and protection from a variety of other harms. This includes, for example, spanking, screaming, crying, and arguing. The duration of the relationship between genetic fathers and children shows a positive correlation with both relative proportion of interaction time and antagonistic interaction. He argues that evolutionary psychology EP mistakenly attempts to discover human psychological adaptations rather than "the evolutionary causes of psychological traits.

Buller asserts that unintentional omission does not fall under the realm of dangerous acts, and rather should be designated "maltreatment". He argues that since sexual abuse is not often accompanied by physical abuse, it is unreasonable to assume that it is motivated by the same kind of psychological mechanism as child homicide. Buller also points out that the conclusion that non-biological parents are more likely to abuse children is contradicted by the fact that even if the rate of abuse among stepparents was disproportionate, most child abuse is in fact committed by biological parents, and that the lowest rate of child abuse is found among adoptive parents.

Furthermore, they found that when the perpetrator was an "Other unrelated including boyfriend " individual, maltreatment was reported on the death certificate 86 percent of the time, significantly higher than for parents.


As Crume et al. Sweden study[ edit ] The findings of Daly and Wilson have been called into question by one study of child homicides in Sweden between andwhich found that children living in households with a non-genetic parent were not at an increased risk of homicide when compared to children living with both genetic parents.

The study, published in and conducted by Temrin and colleagues argued that when Daly and Wilson classified homicides according to family situation, they did not account for the genetic relatedness of the parent who actually committed the crime.

In the Swedish sample, in two out of the seven homicides with a genetic and non-genetic parent, the offender was actually the genetic parent and thus these homicides do not support Daly and Wilson's definition of the Cinderella effect. Temrin and colleagues neglect to consider the fact that the proportion of children in living situations with a stepparent is not constant for all child age groups, but rather increases with age.

observe the effects of a poor stepparent relationship