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Based on a landmark longitudinal study, the nation's leading expert on stepfamilies reveals his breakthrough findings and offers the first detailed guide to easing the conflicts of stepfamily life and healing the scars of divorce.
There are more than twenty million stepfamilies in America. For most of them, the simple, daily issues that challenge every family are even more anxiety-provoking. After conducting a comprehensive nine-year-long study funded by the National Institutes of Health, Dr. James H. Bray has written an invaluable book that explains why over half of all stepfamilies fail and reveals the strategies that help the others succeed.
A stepfamily is assaulted on all sides by difficult and often divisive questions. How much control should a stepparent have over a stepchild? How much authority should a nonresidential parent exert over a child? How should a difficult former spouse be handled? How does an "ours" baby change the emotional dynamic in a stepfamily? Why is there a lack of "honeymoon effect" during the first years of stepfamily life?
The purpose of Stepfamilies is to answer all the important questions of stepfamily life—to fill in the knowledge gaps that undermine so many stepfamilies today and, crucially, to learn the effect of stepfamily life on children. Based on one of the largest and longest studies of stepfamily life ever conducted, Stepfamilies interweaves the stories of real families to illustrate such study findings as how:
•a stepfamily has its own natural life cycle
•a stepfamily takes several years to develop into a family unit
•a stepfamily is at greatest risk during the firsttwo years
•a stepfamily ultimately coalesces into one of three forms
•a stepfamily must solve four basic tasks in order to succeed
•a stepfamily can help heal the scars of divorce
Filled with emotional, gripping stories, Bray's findings pinpoint the three major transitions in stepfamily life and identify the riskiest issues that can throw a family into crisis. Bray is the first to identify the several distinct forms that stepfamilies take and to explore which types of stepfamilies are more vulnerable than others and why. He also describes the natural life cycle of stepfamilies and basic tasks all stepfamilies must undertake to succeed. With a wealth of insight into the positive effects of remarriage, Bray shows how a loving, well-functioning stepfamily can lessen the trauma of divorce and restore a child's and family's sense of security.
Through insightful case studies and practical advice, Stepfamilies reveals how a strong, stable stepfamily is as capable as a nuclear family of nurturing healthy development, of imbuing values, of setting limits and boundaries, and of providing a structure in which rules for living a moral and productive life are transmitted, tested, rebelled against, and ultimately affirmed. Bray's positive message and fascinating findings—many of which defy intuition—will put stepfamilies on the road to lifelong harmony.
"In this fascinating report on the first major study of stepfamilies to date, Bray (family medicine, Baylor Coll. of Medicine) takes a deep look into the workings of this relatively new family unit and identifies three general types: the Neotraditional, the Matriarchal, and the Romantic. The results--formed with expertise gathered from Bray's clinical practice and through a National Institute of Health study he conducted over a nine-year period with 100 stepfamilies and 100 nuclear families as subjects--find that Neotraditional stepfamilies, which eventually look somewhat like traditional nuclear families, have the best success surviving the trials and disappointments of stepfamily life, while Romantics either fail or develop into other kinds of stepfamilies, and Matriarchals see varying degrees of success. This thorough and intelligent book, with its careful consideration of the reasons why over half of the stepfamilies don't succeed and its inspiring insight into how stepfamilies that work do it, will be very welcome in all libraries."—Library Journal