Studying Stepfamilies

  • Lawrence H. Ganong
  • Marilyn Coleman

Abstract

In the 1950s, Betty Friedan revived the feminist movement writing about the problem with no name. In the 1970s, the rock group America sang about the “horse with no name.” In the 1990s we wrote a book about relationships in “the families with no name”—or, to be more accurate, the families with no widely accepted name (Ganong & Coleman, 1994). It is our perception that the plethora of names and labels has lessened over the past decade with most social scientists using the term stepfamilies and a few using the term blended families. However, a review of professional literature yields many labels for stepfamilies: Reconstituted, blended, reconstructed, reorganized, reformed, recycled, combined, semi-combined, rem, step-, synergistic, second-time around, merged, reconstructed, and remarried families. None of these are satisfactory to us. Some seem awkward or even silly (e.g., reconstituted reminds people of orange juice, blended conjures images of whiskey), some are used inconsistently in the literature to describe different types of families (e.g., blended sometimes is used specifically to refer to families in which both adults are stepparents, and sometimes it is used broadly to identify all stepfamilies), some are inaccurate (e.g., not all stepfamilies are second-time around families; some are third- or fourth-time around, and a remarriage for one adult partner may be a first marriage for the other), some are too vague (e.g., combined), some carry negative connotations (e.g., stepfamily), and some suggest odd labels for individual family positions (e.g., a reformed or reconstituted father, a merged or reorganized mother). For the most part, these labels were attempts to avoid the centuries old stigma attached to stepfamilies and stepfamily members (e.g., wicked stepmothers, poor abused stepchild). We will use stepfamily, despite the negative connotations, because it is the most widely used term by researchers, and because it is congruent with labels for family positions (e.g., stepfather, stepmother, stepchild, stepsibling).

Keywords

Europe Resi Kelly Plague 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence H. Ganong
    • 1
  • Marilyn Coleman
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MissouriColumbiaUSA

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