What is a Step-Family?

Step-families come in all shapes and sizes but at their core they are made up of two adults (which can be same sex or opposite sex) and at least one child, but there could be more. 

Some of those children could be either living in the home most of the time, or visiting the household. 

Both of the adults could have children, or maybe just one does. 

There could be an “ours” child, or maybe even more.   

Children can be any age from babies to adult, and sometimes both in the household at the same time.    

The children could be visiting on a regular or irregular basis.  

The children could have little or no contact with one of the biological parents.  

And there might be a combination of different situations all in the same household.  

One thing is for sure – Step-families can be complicated!


The definition of a step-family

In 1983 only about 7% of families with dependent children were classed as step-families. Right now, in 2019, reports indicate that there are more step-families than biological families. 

It’s very difficult to get an exact figure on this because there are differing definitions as to what constitutes a step-family, so this number is hard to verify.  

It also complicates the issue when the Australian Bureau of Statistics and other government departments do not count families where the children visit regularly as step-families. This means that the statistics show less step-families than there really are.  

There are also a variety of terms used, that have different meanings for different people. Many use the term step-family and blended family interchangeably, but the 

the Australian Bureau of Statistics use the term blended family to mean a family where there is a step-child and also a child born to both parents. However other organisations will use the term blended family to mean a family where there are children from both couples living in the household. 

Other terms often used to describe what step-families are include:

  • re-constituted
  • re-married
  • re-partnered
  • merged
  • instant
  • synergistic  
  • social parent  

The definition I use to define what a step-family is, is inclusive making no distinction about gender, residence or amount of contact with children. It solely focuses on its unique structure.

My definition of a step-family:

“A step family is a family  of two adults, in a formal or informal marriage where at least one of the adults has children from a previous relationship.  There may be children from the current union. Children may live in the step-family full time or visit on a part time basis or may not currently have contact.”

Regardless of definition, the impact is the same.

With the clear definition of what a step-family is, it’s easy to see that step-families are becoming incredibly common place in society. However, that doesn’t mean it makes managing the delicate relationships any easier! 

With statistics like these: 

  • 1300 new stepfamilies are forming every day
  • 4 out of 10 marriages ending in divorce in Australia, 1 in 2 in the USA
  • Divorce rate for remarried couples is even higher than first time couples
  • Over 50% of families are remarried or re-coupled
  • 75% of people re-partner after separation

It’s no wonder that step-parenting comes with so many relationship difficulties! 

Which is why I am so passionate about helping other step-parents to navigate the frustrations of step-parenting. 

Regardless of the shape, size or name of your step-family, if you’re facing challenges with step-parenting or experiencing tension with your partner due to step-family issues, I invite you to contact me for guidance or take my online course for insight into resolving your issues. 


Kay Bayly
Step-Parenting Mentor

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