While the fairy tale of the Evil Mother-in-law is as old as time, the effects of mixing children with their new blended families may not be as grim as it has been thought.
In fact, new research shows that stepchildren are not at a disadvantage compared to their peers from single-parent families and in fact perform better than their half-siblings – good news for the over 113 million people. ‘Americans who are part of a steprelation.
Led by anthropologist Ryan Schacht of the University of East Carolina and researchers at the University of Utah, the study titled “Was Cinderella Just A Fairy Tale? The Survival Differences Between Beautiful children and their half-siblings “is available in the May edition of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.
The study challenges the “Cinderella effect” theory. The effect argues that conflicts within stepfamilies over physical, financial, and emotional resources lead to higher mortality risks for stepchildren and are a major contributor to higher rates of abuse and neglect. The phenomenon suggests that step-parents play a major role in this abuse, accumulating resources for their biological children and leading to negative outcomes for step-children.
Schacht suggests that previous studies blamed the negative outcomes associated with parental loss on in-laws, but did so through an “apples to oranges comparison.” Specifically, they compare the long-term outcomes of children who have experienced trauma such as the loss of their parents versus children from stable households. When the team compared stepchildren outcomes more appropriately among children who also experienced the economic and emotional hardships associated with parental loss, they found no difference. More specifically, the introduction of step-parents did not increase the mortality of stepchildren.
“The idea of a step-parent, especially a mother-in-law, as being an agent of evil seems like a story as old as time,” Schacht said. “It’s easy to sell the result of the Cinderella Effect because we’ve been told these stories about the problems that stepfamilies have faced for hundreds of years.
“We are not denying that some stepchildren are suffering,” he said. “However, if we truly believe that it is the step-parent that is the source of negative outcomes for a step-child, then we need to compare similar environments and experiences. A child who has not lost a parent by death or divorce did not experience the same trauma that a stepson has; comparing these two experiences and blaming the step-parent for conflicting results is not a fair comparison. “
The study compared the mortality of stepchildren whose parents remarried after the death of a spouse to children whose parents did not remarry and found three key results:
* Parental mortality has a negative effect on children under the age of 18, especially for infants who lose their mother;
* Children whose parents remarried after the loss of a spouse did not experience a higher mortality rate than children whose parents did not remarry; and
* Stepchildren received a protective effect when a stepbrother was introduced to their new family.
“The metrics of what makes a family successful – household stability, relationship stability, and economic stability – are obtained by in-laws who invest in their stepchildren to make them a reality. antagonistic approach does not make sense if the in-laws want their relationship to be successful. “
The research team analyzed a data set of more than 400,000 Utah children from 1847 to 1940. Schacht said this period provided an opportunity to analyze stepchild death rates in families. during a period of natural fertility when families were larger and most stepfamilies were formed due to the death of a parent.
The study adds that children who have experienced parental loss have more in common with their peers from single-parent households, who face many of the same disparities in education, economics and health care.
Schacht hopes the study will shed light on the financing of public policies for interventions in favor of families who have suffered parental loss.
Source of the story:
Material provided by University of East Carolina. Original written by Matt Smith. Note: Content can be changed for style and length.