A National Portrait of Stepfamilies in Later Life.

TitleA National Portrait of Stepfamilies in Later Life.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsLin, I-F, Brown, SL, Cupka, CJean, Carr, D
JournalJournals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences & Social Sciences
ISSN Number1758-5368
KeywordsCohabitation, Couples, Stepchildren

Objectives: Scholars have documented increases in the prevalence and complexity of stepfamilies earlier in the life course, but no one has systematically investigated U.S. stepfamily structure in later life. Guided by a family systems approach, we described the prevalence and composition of later-life stepfamilies.

Method: The analysis was based on 6,250 married and cohabiting couples participating in the 2012 Health and Retirement Study. We identified the prevalence of later-life stepfamilies, decomposed stepfamily structures, and compared the sociodemographic characteristics and relationship quality of the couples in stepfamilies with those in married families (with only joint children and no stepchildren), paying attention to differences between married and cohabiting stepfamilies.

Results: Roughly 40% of middle-aged and older couples with children were in stepfamilies. Of all stepfamilies, 86% were married couples and 14% were cohabiting couples. Cohabiting stepfamilies more often included children from both partners' previous relationships, but couples in married stepfamilies more often had joint children. Cohabiting stepfamilies appeared to be the most socially and economically disadvantaged, followed by married stepfamilies, and lastly married families. Despite these compositional differences, partner relationship quality was largely similar across married families, married stepfamilies, and cohabiting stepfamilies.

Discussion: This study underscores the high prevalence and complexity of later-life stepfamilies and foregrounds the urgency of additional research on this topic.

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Alternate JournalJ Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci
Citation Key9468
PubMed ID29190365
PubMed Central IDPMC6093452
Grant ListP2C HD050959 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
R15 AG047588 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
R24 HD050959 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States