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by Ron L. Deal, President & Founder, Smart Stepfamilies

A number of stepfamily developmental models have been outlined by authors such as Elizabeth Einstein (Strengthening Your Stepfamily, Einstein & Albert, 1986) and Patricia Papernow (Becoming a Stepfamily: Patterns of Development in Remarried Families, Papernow, 1993). They present comprehensive models of the process of bonding--or integration--within a stepfamily over a period of time. I highly recommend their work, particularly that of Papernow.

What was lacking, however, was a chart that stated very simply the key tasks that stepfamilies can take to help further the process of integration over time according to whether the remarriage was preceeded by death, divorce, or an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. The following chart outlines such distinctions and places tasks in a one of three time frames: Single Parent & Pre-Remarital; Marriage & The Integration Years (approx. 0-7 years); and Solidifying & Enhancing Family Identity (8 years and beyond). It also summarizes the key tasks of each phase of development and provides a case study.

Use it to help you conceptualize how you might intervene to strengthen stepfamilies through both educational and family counseling (including pre-stepfamily counseling) formats.

Click here to download the Stepfamily Developmental Tasks chart (PDF file).

Ron L. Deal is Founder & President of Smart Stepfamilies™ and Director of FamilyLife Blended® for FamilyLife®. He is a bestselling author, highly sought-after speaker, and therapist specializing in marriage enrichment and blended family education. Learn more here.