Stepmothers Cannot Replace Biological Mothers


By the awesome RANDI James

Stepmothers Cannot Replace Biological Mothers  (emphasis mine)

Myth -- Stepmothers are acceptable substitutes for children's real mothers. [This is the cherished belief of many re-coupled nonprimary caregiving fathers who seek custody, and also of the custody evaluators who indulge them.]

Fact: "It has been consistently found that stepfamilies are not as close as nuclear families (Kennedy, 1985; Pill, 1990) and that stepparent-stepchild relationships are not as emotionally close as parent-child relationships (Ganong & Coleman, 1986; Hetherington & Chlingempeel, 1992, Hobart, 1989) Many clinicians and researchers assume that stepfamilies tend to become closer over time. However, previous longitudinal studies conducted on stepfamilies have found little empirical support for this (Hetherington & Clingempeel, 1992; Kurdek, 1991).

"Exploring the Stepgap: How Parents' Ways of Coping with Daily Family Stressors Impact Stepparent-Stepchild Relationship Zuality in Stepfamilies," by Melady Preece. University of British Columbia. (1996) http://www.psych.ubc.ca/~mpreece/compdoc.pdf


Fact: "The one most significant factor that neutralizes the advantages of remarrying is the psychological dilemma the child goes through over whom to love. The child seems to be polarized, for example, between loving the woman (the mother) who is now, as it usually happens, hated by the father, and the new woman (the stepmother) whom the father deeply loves. Virginia Rutter describes this conflict as "divided loyalty". She further explains that the child feels torn because their parents are pulling them in opposite directions. The symptoms of this divided royalty are that they brew up bad behavior or depression, a forced psychological path to resolve the conflict between the parents(Rutter). On the other hand children whose parents remain single do not experience this because no new figure (stepparent) is introduced to trigger that psychological trauma."

"Reconstituted families vs Single-Parent Families." http://wl.middlebury.edu/derick/ ; Rutter, Virginia. "Lessons From Stepfamilies". Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, Inc. May-June 1994 Vol27 n3 p30 (10). Oct. 31, 2002.

Fact: "Adolescents, however, would rather separate from the family as they form their own identities. "The developmental needs of the adolescent are at odds with the developmental push of the new stepfamily for closeness and bonding,".

Id. Also see "NEW PERSPECTIVES ON STEPFAMILIES:STEP IS NOT A FOUR LETTER WORD," by Susan Gamache, M.A., R.C.C.* STEPFAMILIES, Fall 1994 http://www.saafamilies.org/education/articles/prof/gameche.htm

Fact: "Only about 20% of adult stepkids feel close to their stepmoms, says the pioneering work of E. Mavis Hetherington involving 1,400 families of divorce, some studied almost 30 years. 'The competition between non-custodial mothers and stepmothers was remarkably enduring," she writes in For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered. 'Only about one-third of adult children think of stepmoms as parents,' suggests Constance Ahrons' 20-year research project. Half regard their stepdads as parents. About 48% of those whose moms had remarried were happy with the new union. Only 29% of those whose dads had remarried liked the idea of a stepmom.'

"Stepmoms step up to the plate," by Karen S. Peterson, USA TODAY. 5/6/2002) http://www.usatoday.com/life/2002/2002-05-07-stepmom.htm

Fact: "Stepmothers have the most difficulty building a relationship with stepdaughters. There is generally less affection, less respect, and less acceptance in this relationship than in other stepfamily relationships. The daughter may resent the stepmother's closeness with her father... Attempts by the stepmother to fulfill her role in the stepfamily may be perceived by the stepdaughter as efforts to replace her mother."

"Building Step Relationships." Stepping Stones for Stepfamilies. http://www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/PM1832.pdf

Fact: "Stepmothers are also found to have more problematic relationship with stepchildren; while children, particularly girls, also experience higher stress when they are living with their stepmothers. (Jacobson, 1987 in Visher & Visher, 1993). Visher & Visher (1979) suggested that teenage daughters identify strongly with their mothers and resent any woman who replaces their mother for the father's affection. Teenage daughters also exhibit much competitiveness with their stepmothers for their father's affection. These findings suggested that there are strong situational dynamics at work that create special relationship problems for stepmother families. Difficulty between the children's mother and stepmother has also been mentioned as a possible contribution to the greater stress in stepmother families. (Visher & Visher 1988)

"Exploring the Difficulties of stepmothers in the Hong Kong Chinese Society," by Kwok Yuen-ching, Lily.The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (1998) http://swforum.socialnet.org.hk/article/fulltext/990502.doc

Also see: Ganong & Coleman. Remarried Family Relatioships Sage Publications. (1994); Visher, J.S. & Visher, E.B. "Stepfamilies: A Guide To Working With Stepparents & Stepchildren." Brunner/Mazel New York (1979); Visher, J.S. & Visher, E.B. "Old Loyalties,New Ties." Therapeutic Strategies with Stepfamilies Brunner/Mazel New York (1988); Visher, J.S. & Visher, E.B. " Remarriage Families and Stepparenting" in Walsh, T. (ed.) Normal Family Processes. New York Guilford Press (1993); Vuchinich S. et al (1991) "Parent-Child Interaction and Gender Differences in Early Adolescents." Adaptation to Stepfamilies. Developmental Psychology 1991 Vol. 27, No.4; Smith, Donna. "Stepmothering." Harvester Wheatsheaf. New York (1990)

Fact: "Children raised in families with stepmothers are likely to have less health care, less education and less money spent on their food than children raised by their biological mothers, three studies by a Princeton economist have found. The studies examined the care and resources that parents said they gave to children and did not assess the quality of the relationships or the parents' feelings and motives. But experts said that while the findings did not establish the image of the wicked stepmother as true, they supported the conclusion that, for complex reasons, stepmothers do invest less in children than biological mothers do, with fathers, to a large extent, leaving to women the responsibility for the family's welfare."

"Differences Found in Care With Stepmothers," by Tamar Lewin, Tim Shaffer for The New York Times Susan Sasse, vice president of the International Stepfamily Association, with her husband, Erik, and their children in Chesapeake City, Md. (August 17, 2000) http://www.geocities.com/thesagacontinues2000/stepmoms.html

Also see http://www.geocities.com/wellesley/9204/custody.html; and "What's Normal In a Stepfamily"? by Peter K. Gerlach, MSW. Board member Stepfamily Association of America http://sfhelp.org/04/reality3.htm

Also see: Children living with custodial fathers are less likely to have health insurance than children who live with their mothers. http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/p60-224.pdf

Fact: "[C]hildren experiencing multiple transitions, experiencing them later in childhood, and those living in stepfamilies fared poorly in comparison with those living their entire childhood in stable single-parent families or moving into two-parent families with biological or adoptive parents. Other studies show benefits of stable single-parent living arrangements for children's socioemotional adjustment and global wellbeing (Acock & Demo, 1994), and deleterious effects of multiple transitions (Capaldi & Patterson, 1991; Kurdek, Fine, & Sinclair, 1995), supporting a life-stress perspective."

David H Demo, Martha J Cox (2000) Families With Young Children: A Review of Research in the 1990s Journal of Marriage and Family 62 (4), 876-895.

Fact: "[R]esearch suggests that being a stepparent is more difficult than raising one's own biological children, especially for stepmothers, and that stepmothers may compete with the child for the father's time and attention."

Pasley, K., & Moorefield, B. S. (2004). Stepfamilies: Changes and challenges. In M. Coleman & L. H. Ganong (Eds.), Handbook of contemporary families (pp. 317-330), cited in Valarie King (2007) When Children Have Two Mothers: Relationships With Nonresident Mothers, Stepmothers, and Fathers Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (5), 1178-1193.

You can read more at the Liz Library


We all know good and bad stepmothers, some are well-intentioned, others are.... These women are often in quite a mess of a situation: They are in their 2nd and 3rd marriages, determined to make the current marriage work, insistent that thishusband is the best (or at least a little better than the last), and sometimes constantly having to convince themselves of this. They often already have children that they are fully responsible for and in addition, they become the caretakers of the husband's children (please read Remarried Custodial Fathers As Caregivers).

Stepmothers generally believe their husband's word, as gospel, about his ex wife and are often staunch leaders in the attack against his former girlfriends and wives. She must believe it because it was her choice to marry such a "wonderful" man and surround herself in this complex situation. She cannot look stupid, again. Any woman before her can become the enemy in her attempt to boost her self-esteem.

A stepmother is a husband's greatest advocate. A judge in an Australian child sex abuse custody case opines [on the stepmother]:

"This lady was an impressive person and witness. I thought she was honest and attempting to assist the court. She clearly supports the father and trusts him implicitly. She would not contemplate a future with him if she suspected that he had been abusing his child .

**Custody was given to the father

They can be like Bonnie and Clyde.

(See: Father Let His 12 Year-Old Daughter Die A Slow Hideous Death After Beating and Scalding

Father Accused Child's Mother of Abuse in Custody Case; Stepmother Kills Child

Father and Stepmother Tortured 9 Year-Old Child

Stepmother Stabs 14 Year-Old Boy

Father and Stepmother Punched Around 8 Year-Old to "Toughen Him Up" and/or as "Play Hitting"

Where was Her Mommy? Dad and Stepmonster Charged with Criminal Mistreatment

Child Abuse Charges for Minnesota Father, Stepmonster)

From Family in Court for Brutal Child Abuse (in a rare case in which a father was charged for failure to protect, emphasis mine):

The future is uncertain for a two-year-old boy allegedly beaten unconscious by his stepmother. As he continues to recover from severe brain injuries, his family appeared before a Lee County judge trying to decide who will take care of young Kaydin on his long road to recovery.

Rosemary Kunz showed up for family court Wednesday morning.

The Department of Children and Families is investigating child abuse allegations against Kunz.

Detectives say she confessed to hitting her stepson, tripping him, and knocking him unconscious.

She went as far as to say she was "addicted to abusing him" and that she "liked to see him cry."

**Kinda makes you afraid to let your kid go with dad. All we ever hear about is stepDADS and mothers' boyfriends who do the abusing.

Child support is owed to the ex, taking money away from the family, custody battles may ensue...Stepmothers get stressed trying to hold up the family and juggle each situation as it presents. Much anger and resentment is built. I have seen many a stepmother talk absolute shit about her husband's ex AND the children.

Here's an excerpt by Leeahn Griffin-Scott:

"The 2nd X is a psychopathicredheadedfreakofnature. I kid you not. This woman is an unmittigated lunatic. My wonderful husband partnered with her as he walked out the door of his first marriage. Long story. My wonderful husband has a 9yr old child to this fool...

I know this is an awful thing to say, but if I never saw his children again it would be too too damn soon. I cannot and never will forgive them for what they have done to their father. I on the other hand, can and should expect some problems. But what they have done to the only parent that loves them more than life itself, is absolutely without question unforgiveable."

Is it her place to judge a woman she truly knows nothing about? Do stepmothers not understand karma?

My advice to stepmothers or potentials would be to do a background check on your prospective mate...maybe all of those injunctions for protection aren't just "false allegations." Get to know his family members. Keep in mind that their beliefs about him may be exaggerated in either direction. And most of all, don't make enemies with his ex. Everything that she is saying may not be false...Think about it! She knows him better than his mama because she's been sleeping with him and putting up with his shit. She knows his mannerisms, habits, friends...She should be your ally because you never know, one day, you made need her assistance so that you can join forces.

On a personal note, I once, very briefly and nebulously tried to tell my ex's current wife about the abuse we had suffered, and why I was fighting so hard in my custody battle. She told me that she would never allow "those types" of things to go on in her household, and that they had a very "loving" family. Verbatim, she said,

"There are three sides to every story..."

Which I took to mean,

"Whatever, bitch!"

But she was cordial and reminiscent of a virgin. I left it at that.

Here this "woman" was trying to tell me about the man she had been married to for one year. One. I've known him for more than a decade.