Family Complexity

In the past decade, family scholars have realized that accounting for siblings’ relationships is critically important in understanding the true complexity of families of all kinds, including stepfamilies (Brown et al., 2015 ; McGuire & Shanahan, 2010). Family structure typically is defined by parents’ relationship status (e.g., single, married, cohabiting, remarried) and by the type of parent-child relationships in the family (e.g., parent, stepparent, adoptive, foster). Family structure is important to assess because structural properties of families and households are related to family dynamics and other relevant influences on families (e.g., where they live, socioeconomic status), but family structure as it has been defined for decades inadequately captures family diversity (Brown et al., 2015; McGuire & Shanahan, 2010). To truly capture family complexity you must measure the presence of halfsiblings or stepsiblings (Brown et al., 2015; Gennetian, 2005; Yuan, 2009).

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