Like My Own Children: Relations to Adult Stepchildren in the Context of Serial Parenting

Kirsten van Houdt , Stockholm University

With an increase in parental separation and repartnering, Western societies have witnessed an increase in the diversity of parent-child ties. As a result, the different dimensions of parenthood – such as biological relatedness, childrearing, living in one household and parental authority – are disconnected in an increasing number of families. This raises the question of how we define a ‘real’ parent-child tie. By studying stepparent claiming – the extent to which stepparents perceive their adult stepchildren as their own children – this study provides insight into how people define kinship and adds a new dimension to our knowledge about stepfamilies. Using the OKiN data, I study how the context of stepparent-child relations (e.g., co-residence, duration, stepchild’s age at start, marriage) and the relations to biological children relate to stepmothers’ and –fathers’ (N = 3,328) claiming. The findings suggest that the more similar the structural circumstances (co-residence, duration, etc.) are to ‘traditional’ parent-child relations, the more stepparents tend to claim stepchildren as their own, even controlling for the closeness between the stepparent and -children. Having own, biological children is associated with lower levels of claiming, which could indicate that stepchildren substitute biological children and/or that loyalty towards biological children keeps parents from claiming stepchildren as their own. Further analyses will focus on these mechanisms in more detail.

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 Presented in Session P2. Poster Session Ageing, Health and Mortality