Trust the Process: Gordon Limb on Strengthening the Stepfamily

Photo by Blake Barlow on Unsplash

Speaking at the Virgina F. Cutler Lecture, Dr. Gordon Limb reported data from the BYU Research study STEP (Stepfamily Experiences Project), including risks and benefits of growing up in stepfamilies.

Limb’s lecture presented statistics on the changing family environment with emphasis on the Native American family. His research with STEP has found that regardless of ethnicity, family processes are more important than family structure.

Helpful Family Processes during Remarriage Transitions:

  • Think about the age of children when making adjustments: kids under 5 tend to feel abandoned, between 5-8 blame themselves, at ages 9-12 kids will side with one parent or the other, however, all children under 9 adjust to change more easily.
  • A Negative Co-Parenting situation can trigger depression in the child. Negative co-parenting can be anything from having different homework standards, forcing the children to take sides during arguments, or enforcing different bedtimes.

Limb’s research with Native Americans in the STEP Project found:

  • On average Native American children are more “insecurely attached” during transitions than Caucasians, expressing feelings of anxiety, emotional distance, and clinginess.
  • Allowing children to establish a good connection with their stepsiblings can make a big difference.

Overall, Limb found that Children adjust well to different environments and situations if there is consistency, continuity, and efforts to build positive relationships between stepsiblings and stepfamilies.

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