Children and adolescents living together with a single parent or as a part of a single stepfamily or blended family are believed to have reduced academic performance compared to those who live intact families. However, the evidence suggests that this effect is not large (Mostafa et al., 2018). For instance, Ferrer and Pan compared the reading skills and proficiency in mathematics of teenagers that live with both biological parents and in a stepfamily (Ferrer & Pan, 2020). The authors found that while children from blended families had significantly worse scores for reading, there was no difference in math results. However, the difference becomes insignificant once control variables are introduced (Ferrer & Pan, 2020)
Additionally, Njoroge and Kirori argue that the fact whether a child is living with a stepmother or stepfather can also affect performance (Njoroge & Kirori, 2017). As such, the researchers found that teenagers living with biological mothers and stepfathers perform worse than those residing with biological fathers and stepmothers. Such a difference is explained by the fact that males are usually less involved with the life of stepchildren (Njoroge & Kirori, 2017). However, other studies found the opposite or no correlation between those constructs (Mostafa et al., 2018).
Emotional and Behavioral Outcomes
As for emotional and behavioral outcomes, the research findings are less contradictive than in the case of cognitive consequences of custodial parent’s remarriage. In this regard, Perales et al. found that children and adolescents from non-intact (including blended) families tend to suffer from mental disorders statistically more often than their counterparts from intact families (Perales et al., 2017). In particular, children from blended families suffer more from anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and conduct disorder than the latter kids (Perales et al., 2017). According to Ganong et al., other studies have received similar results (Ganong et al., 2021). Moreover, Park and Lee studied Korean children and determined that those who belong to non-intact are more prone to use tobacco, alcohol, and drugs during adolescence (Park & Lee, 2020). In addition, there was no evidence that living with a stepsibling or half-sibling has any adverse effect on the mental health or behavior of a child (Mostafa et al., 2018). For example, research suggests that having stepsiblings is not related to increased depression (Jensen et al., 2018).
Personal Background as Remarriage Influences Mediators
The research on family dynamics reveals that there are certain personal characteristics and overall backgrounds of children or adolescents that may mediate the strength of remarriage’s influence on them. The first important factor that mediates this relationship is the gender of a child. As such, it is argued that females are more susceptible to developing depression, whereas males are prone to have problems with behavior (Tullius et al., 2021). Additionally, girls living in stepfamilies usually experience more problems with mathematics than a boy (Ferrer & Pan, 2020). Secondly, the studies suggest that children that are more resilient to adverse life situations are less influenced by their parent’s divorce and remarriage (Karela & Petrogiannis, 2020).
Furthermore, the gender of the stepparent is also found to have a mediating role. Chinese adolescents’ research concluded that boys and girls show depressive symptoms and aggressive behavior significantly more often when living with a stepmother than with a stepfather (Fung, 2021). Moreover, the culture that the child or adolescent lives in also determines the strength of remarriage impact (Raley & Sweeney, 2020). For instance, the awareness that one’s custodial parent is remarrying would lead to more adverse effects in societies where such behavior is condemned (Raley & Sweeney, 2020). Lastly, it is argued that when the blended family structure is similar to the original family structure, children are less prone to develop externalizing or internalizing problems (Raley & Sweeney, 2020).
Blended Family Relationship Quality and Child Outcome
Previous research has indicated that living in blended families has an influence on a child and adolescent is mediated by the quality of relationships within and between family members. In particular, scholars have been interested in the analysis of the biological parent-child (adolescent), stepparent-child (adolescent), and biological parent-stepparent interaction (Jensen et al., 2017). Some studies have also investigated the quality of child or adolescent relationships with nonresident biological parents – mostly fathers (Jensen & Lippold, 2018).
As such, the relationship quality is operationalized as existing affection between biological and stepparents and their children, including the levels of parental involvement in the lives of the (step)sons and (step)daughters. For instance, Jensen et al. measured how often (step)parent was angry with the child and showed interest in the life of or care towards the latter (Jensen et al., 2018). Moreover, the same authors measured whether children or adolescents were subjects of physical or verbal abuse. Furthermore, the assessment of the relationship quality may also include happiness with the existing family ties and closeness among family members (Jensen & Harris, 2017).
The Quality of the Relationship with Biological Parent
The primary relation that mediates the impact of blended families on children or adolescents is the one that exists with biological parents. In this regard, the research conducted by Jensen et al. suggests that issues in the biological parent-child relationship lead to internalizing (depression and anxiety) and externalizing (aggressive behavior) problems among adolescents (Jensen et al., 2018). In a similar vein, Jensen and Harris found that the quality of the mother-child relationship is directly associated with the presence and severity of depression among adolescents (Jensen & Harris, 2017). Yet, the same scholars discovered that interaction condition with nonresident father does not have any substantial impact on a child, which contradicted Shafer et al.’s results which claimed a small but significant association (Shafer et al., 2017).
The Quality of the Relationship with Stepparent
The relationship of a child with one’s stepfather or stepmother can also substantially affect his or her well-being. The previous studies are unanimous in claiming the existence of a correlation between the latter concept and depression, anxiety, and aggressive behavior (Jensen et al., 2018; Jensen & Harris, 2017; Shafer et al., 2017). Additionally, Jensen et al. identified the link between stepparent-child relationship quality and overall family stress (Jensen et al., 2017). Moreover, Zaharychuk argues that stepmothers can help children effectively counter the adverse mental consequences of recent parent divorce and the beginning of a new family (Zaharychuk, 2017). Finally, Jensen and Harris discovered that the stepparent relationship with the child is significantly determined by the quality of interaction that the young person has with one’s biological parent (Jensen & Harris, 2017).
Impact of Couple Relationship Quality on Child
Last but not least, some scholars hypothesized that the quality of the relationship between biological parents and stepparents could also affect a child’s well-being. However, the results revealed a mixed association between the two variables. For example, Jensen and Lippold found a small but significant impact of the couple interaction process on a young person (Jensen & Lippold, 2018). Yet, other studies could not prove the existence of such a link during adolescence, but the latter research indicated the appearance of adverse mental health effects during adulthood (Jensen & Harris, 2017; Jensen et al., 2018).
In summary, the current analysis revealed that custody parents’ remarriage and living in a blended family could significantly impact the child’s and adolescent’s well-being. Previous research suggests that it can lead to several mental disorders, such as anxiety disorder or ADHD, slightly reduced academic performance, and alcohol, tobacco, and drug abuse. However, it seems that those negative effects can be mitigated if the child has high-quality relations with biological and stepparents. For this reason, some researchers suggest that adverse consequences of parent remarriage should be primarily attributed to family functioning rather than to family structure (Lin et al., 2019). In this regard, Majumdar reminds us that it is crucial for parents to be actively involved in the lives of their (step)children (Majumdar, 2017).
Overall, the most reviewed works adopted national surveys for conducting the analysis. On the one hand, such an approach allows for receiving statistically representative results that can be generalized. On the other hand, research on the impact of family structure on children’s and adolescents’ mental and physical well-being is still quite scarce, and there are many gaps to cover. Addressing this topic is especially important as family institution all over the world is in the process of active transformation. It means that there is a growing number of non-intact and reducing numbers of intact families. As a result, it is of high importance that there are new researchers in the sphere so that the current society can ensure the healthy development of the next generations.
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