Marriage Problems Caused by Stepchildren

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce, 75 percent of divorced couples remarry and 66 percent of cohabitating or remarried couples break up when children are involved. These numbers clearly reflect the challenge of blending a family through remarriage. The process of adjusting to a new family dynamic is difficult for everyone involved and can result in problems within the marriage.

Disrespect of Authority

Children whose parents have divorced are more likely to display aggressive behavior, difficulty interacting with parents, siblings and peers and problems with authority than children whose biological parents remain married. Subsequent remarriage can cause a child to feel a number of negative emotions, including resentment, jealousy, disappointment and guilt.These emotions can manifest in outright disobedience and disrespect toward the step-parent, who often gets the blame for the child’s unwanted situation. Bad feelings can occur within the marriage when the spouse tolerates or defends the child’s behavior, leaving the step-parent feeling like an unwanted intruder in his own home. Children should be encouraged to express their emotions openly while maintaining a standard of respect for everyone in the household.

Differences in Discipline

In any marriage, differences in child rearing and discipline styles can cause conflict. When the children in question are stepchildren, the potential for conflict increases. Parenting roles are not as clear-cut in a step-parent and stepchild relationship. A step-parent who comes on too strong in an authoritative role can alienate the children and trigger protective instincts and defensiveness in the biological parent. This can lead to conflict within the marriage and a family divided. Parenting roles and boundaries should be decided as a couple. As conflicts arise, it is vital for both parents to present a united front to the children and resolve any differences in private.


A step-parent is a member of a team of parents, including the other biological parent, aka the ex-spouse. It is in the best interests of the children for both biological parents to remain actively involved in their life. However, the presence of the ex-spouse can spark insecurity and jealousy in the current spouse, as well as the potential for conflict over the care or discipline of the children. Effective co-parenting requires communication and coordination between both homes. Parents divorce each other, not the children, and a step-parent can take comfort in knowing that the ex-spouse is the “ex” for a reason 2.

Couple Time

A common complaint among married couples with children is a lack of adult time. The problem is compounded when children from previous marriages are combined in one household. The responsibilities of keeping a home and caring for children are endless and often leave little opportunity for quality time with a spouse. Communication problems and emotional distance can develop when couples do not make a concentrated effort to spend time together away from the everyday stresses of family life. Marriage is the foundation of family and taking time to strengthen that relationship benefits the entire family.

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