Becoming A Stepfamily: Patterns of Development in Remarried Families, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Becoming A Stepfamily

Patterns of Development in Remarried Families, 1st Edition

By Patricia L. Papernow

Gestalt Press

448 pages

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What determines whether stepfamilies remain together? What helps stepfamilies overcomes the difficulties of remarriage and become mutually supportive family units? How can mental health professionals better support this development? This book brings both clarity and depth to the unique and complex dynamics of remarried families. Patricia Papernow draws on interviews with over 100 stepfamily members, up-to-date research, a solid theoretical framework, and an empathic clinical sensibility to present an insightful model of stepfamily development, the Stepfamily Cycle. This details account of the sages of forming a lasting, cohesive group is richly illustrated by stepfamily members' own stories.

Becoming a Stepfamily describes the developmental challenges involved in building nourishing, reliable relationships between stepparents and stepchildren, in the newly married couple, and between different family groups who must learn to live together in a remarried family. Papernow discusses the factors that influence the pace and ease of development, and she provides four full length case studies illustrating the varied paths through the stepfamily cycle to the successful remarried life.

The author offers therapists, clergy, school personnel, and others involved with stepfamilies a range of effective interventions, including preventive, educational, and clinical approaches. She provides practical guidance for helping family members deal constructively with the differing attachments of children to their biological parents and stepparents, assisting stepparents as they cope with feeling excluded from the powerful biological parent-child bond, and guiding biological parents torn between their spouse's need for intimacy and privacy and their children's needs for support and attention.


"Presenting information crucial to the understand of many contemporary American families, Dr. Papernow gives a vivid description of the various stages of stepfamily integration. Well-written, easy to read, with excellent examples and vignettes, this book deserves a special place in the library of every therapist."

- John S. Visher, Ph.D., and Emily B. Visher, Ph.D.

Table of Contents

I. Becoming a Stepfamily: Issues and Concepts

1. Introduction

2. Stepfamily Structure: Bonds Without Blood

II. The Stepfamily Cycle: Normal Stages of Stepfamily Development

3. The Early Stages: Getting Started Without Getting Stuck

4. The Middle Stages: Restructuring the Family

5. The Later Stages: Solidifying the Stepfamily

III. Moving Through the Stepfamily Cycle: Patterns and Problems

6. Patterns of Development: Four Paths to Resolution

7. Problems in Stepfamily Development: Intervention

IV Epilogue - What Stepfamilies Can Teach Us

Appendix A: Stepfamily Cycle Summary

Appendix B: Self-Help Guide for Stepfamilies

Appendix C: Summary of Clinical Intervention Strategies

Appendix D: Family Profiles

About the Author

Patricia L. Papernow is a psychologist in private practice in Cambridge, MA.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health
PSYCHOLOGY / Psychotherapy / Couples & Family
PSYCHOLOGY / Developmental / Lifespan Development