Step-Outsiders vs. Step-Insiders: How Step-parents May Feel

This post is fourteenth in a series of videos available in our new BYU Social Sciences YouTube channel! The channel contains tidbits of many of our most popular lectures and useful, succinct, research-backed advice on relationship, political, religious, media, and financial issues. Follow us there to stay up-to-date on wisdom that will help you and your family live better lives.

It’s no secret that divorces and remarriages can be messy. How do you blend two families together? What do you do if your child doesn’t like your new spouse? In a step-family, how do you reconcile old relationships with new? Dr. Patricia Papernow addressed these questions at BYU’s 2016 Social Work Conference. Papernow cited the example of a man named Gary, who was biological father to his daughter Hallie, and remarried to Claire. Gary and Claire were having a conversation when Hallie burst in wanting to talk about soccer tryouts. Gary turned away from Claire to focus on his daughter, leaving his new wife feeling left out. Dr. Papernow said that this is a common feeling: “Step-parents often become stuck outsiders. Stuck outsiders often feel invisible, unseen; they feel rejected. [Remarried] parents are stuck insiders…[they] are torn between the people that they love. They often feel anxious, they may feel inadequate.” The former has to learn how to fit in while the latter has to learn to balance what everyone wants: their children, their new spouse, and their ex-spouse. It’s clearly very difficult to navigate the intricacies of a step-family.


Watch Papernow’s full address below for advice on how to address these and other issues, or subscribe to the Connections magazine of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences to get the latest information on stepfamily research when the next issue comes out in a couple of months!


Dr. Papernow is an internationally-recognized expert on stepfamilies. She integrates her deep understanding of the research with four decades of clinical practice and a wide variety of modalities and theoretical modes. She has written two of the classic books in the field as well as numerous articles, book chapters, and guest blog posts. She is known as a highly engaging teacher, an excellent speaker, and attuned, caring, clinical supervisor. Dr. Papernow is a psychologist in private practice in Hudson, Ma, and Director of the Institute for Stepfamily Education.

The Marjorie Pay Hinckley Chair, which sponsored the conference, was created to strengthen, understand, and research families as well as create strategies to bolster families through challenges such as learning disabilities, “social development,” and single parenting.

What’s your advice for blending two families?

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