The makeup of families has changed dramatically over the past few decades. As divorce, remarriage and cohabitation have become more common in society, so too have blended and non-traditional family structures.
More families consist of step-parents, step-siblings and half-siblings than ever before. Below we will look at some of the most common types of blended families found in society nowadays.
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One of the most familiar blended family types is the stepfamily which forms when a divorced or widowed person with children goes on to remarry or cohabit with a new partner. This brings together their children from previous relationships and any mutual children they have together in one household.
Issues like bonding, discipline, rivalry and managing complex relationships with ex-partners can arise in stepfamilies. However, many successfully blend into loving families given time.
In a multigenerational household, grandparents, parents and grandchildren all live together under the same roof. Sometimes this is due to financial or practical reasons, such as saving on housing costs. Other times it stems from cultural traditions or a desire to have grandparents involved in helping with childcare.
Multigenerational families have become much more widespread as factors like rising housing prices prevent younger generations from affording to move out. Living in close quarters can cause tensions but also allows for strong cross-generational bonds to develop within these blended families.
There are over 55,000 foster families across the UK looking after more than 70,000 foster children who are unable to live with their biological parents due to reasons like abuse or neglect in the home environment. Foster families open up their homes on a short-term or long-term basis to care for foster children with a wide variety of backgrounds and needs.
Navigating the foster care system throws up complex challenges but foster carers speak of the deep rewards in providing love and support to children without a stable home.
LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) couples with children also constitute blended families that differ from the societal norm of children living with both their biological mother and father. They may include children conceived through sperm/egg donation or surrogacy and co-parenting arrangements.
Additionally, many adoptive families are same-sex couples or feature transgender parents. LGBT blended families face the challenge of dealing with societal prejudice, but Pride and equal rights movements have increased visibility and acceptance.
As the above examples show, the modern family structure encompasses so much more than just the nuclear family. Blended and non-traditional families have become a huge part of the fabric of today’s society. The boundaries of what constitutes “family” have expanded to be more inclusive and recognise the diverse realities of people’s lives.
Although forming a cohesive blended household presents difficulties, most discover that creating a loving family is possible, however unexpected its makeup may be. The priority lies in building relationships based on care, trust and acceptance – something any style of family can aspire to achieve.