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Stepfamilies [Kindle Edition]

James H. Bray , John Kelly
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.99
Kindle Price: $11.84
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Based on a landmark longitudinal study, the nation's leading expert on stepfamilies reveals his breakthrough findings and offers the first detailed guide to easing the conflicts of stepfamily life and healing the scars of divorce.

There are more than twenty million stepfamilies in America.  For most of them, the simple, daily issues that challenge every family are even more anxiety-provoking.  After conducting a comprehensive nine-year-long study funded by the National Institutes of Health, Dr.  James H.  Bray has written an invaluable book that explains why over half of all stepfamilies fail and reveals the strategies that help the others succeed.

A stepfamily is assaulted on all sides by difficult and often divisive questions.  How much control should a stepparent have over a stepchild? How much authority should a nonresidential parent exert over a child? How should a difficult former spouse be handled? How does an "ours" baby change the emotional dynamic in a stepfamily? Why is there a lack of "honeymoon effect" during the first years of stepfamily life?

The purpose of Stepfamilies is to answer all the important questions of stepfamily life--to fill in the knowledge gaps that undermine so many stepfamilies today and, crucially, to learn the effect of stepfamily life on children.  Based on one of the largest and longest studies of stepfamily life ever conducted, Stepfamilies interweaves the stories of real families to illustrate such study findings as how:

a stepfamily has its own natural life cycle
a stepfamily takes several years to develop into a family unit
a stepfamily is at greatest risk during the first two years
a stepfamily ultimately coalesces into one of three forms
a stepfamily must solve four basic tasks in order to succeed
a stepfamily can help heal the scars of divorce

Filled with emotional, gripping stories, Bray's findings pinpoint the three major transitions in stepfamily life and identify the riskiest issues that can throw a family into crisis.  Bray is the first to identify the several distinct forms that stepfamilies take and to explore which types of stepfamilies are more vulnerable than others and why.  He also describes the natural life cycle of stepfamilies and basic tasks all stepfamilies must undertake to succeed.  With a wealth of insight into the positive effects of remarriage, Bray shows how a loving, well-functioning stepfamily can lessen the trauma of divorce and restore a child's and family's sense of security.

Most stepparents remarry with the highest hopes and new resolutions for a better life.  Never before have their unique needs been addressed in depth. Through insightful case studies and practical advice, Stepfamilies reveals how a strong, stable stepfamily is as capable as a nuclear family of nurturing healthy development, of imbuing values, of setting limits and boundaries, and of providing a structure in which rules for living a moral and productive life are transmitted, tested, rebelled against, and ultimately affirmed.  Bray's positive message and fascinating findings--many of which defy intuition--will put stepfamilies on the road to lifelong harmony.

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In this fascinating report on the first major study of stepfamilies to date, Bray (family medicine, Baylor Coll. of Medicine) takes a deep look into the workings of this relatively new family unit and identifies three general types: the Neotraditional, the Matriarchal, and the Romantic. The results?formed with expertise gathered from Bray's clinical practice and through a National Institute of Health study he conducted over a nine-year period with 100 stepfamilies and 100 nuclear families as subjects?find that Neotraditional stepfamilies, which eventually look somewhat like traditional nuclear families, have the best success surviving the trials and disappointments of stepfamily life, while Romantics either fail or develop into other kinds of stepfamilies, and Matriarchals see varying degrees of success. This thorough and intelligent book, with its careful consideration of the reasons why over half of the stepfamilies don't succeed and its inspiring insight into how stepfamilies that work do it, will be very welcome in all libraries.?Rebecca Miller, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

A handbook for blended families that offers some substantive advice, based on a 10-year longitudinal study by Bray, presented with the help of Kelly (co-author, The Secret Life of an Unborn Child, not reviewed). As a clinical psychologist, Bray (Family Medicine/Baylor Coll. of Medicine) worked frequently with stepfamilies and knew that up to 60 percent of second marriages that include stepchildren do not succeed. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, he recruited 200 families--all Texas-based, generally white and middle or working class, with a biological mother and a stepfather as the family core--in a search for information about why this is so. He found each family unique in its struggle to create a close-knit and loving home but was able to identify three general categories and three stages that predict the degree of success. The categories are the Neotraditional family, where husbands and wives emphasize the relationship rather than themselves; the Romantic family, least likely to succeed because expectations are unrealistic; and the Matriarchal family, where the mother is highly competent and dominant. All stepfamilies, whatever their type, follow a pattern of ups and downs, according to Bray. As with a first marriage, the first two years, when children and adults are sorting out their relationships and coming to terms with shadows of the first marriages, are the hardest. The next three or four years are more tranquil as compromises have been made, but the third cycle can see stress and conflict again, as children and parents endure adolescence. One major obstacle to the emerging stepfamily: stepparents who move too quickly to take over the parental role. Detailed and evocative case histories illuminate discussions of these various landmarks in stepfamilies lives, including the sometimes disruptive but vital role of former spouses. A step up for stepfamilies, who may not fit exactly into the pigeonholes described but can take comfort and guidance from Bray's findings. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 427 KB
  • Print Length: 290 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0767901037
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (August 17, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005EM8NLW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #631,943 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 48 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I read this book -- and about 20 others -- along with going to 'professional family counselors' and our local pastor because I wanted to 'break the cycle' of disfunction and divorce in which I found myself and young son entangled. I was raised in a blended stepfamily since the age of two. My son was on his way to becoming a stepson at the age of six. I wanted for us to have a more successful family, and for my son to enjoy his childhood more than I (or my two full- and two half- siblings) did. Nearly all of my siblings, cousins, and parental figures are divorced or unhappily married; anyone can see my problem is 'where do I turn for good, useful, success-based advice!?!' During my quest, what I have found is that most 'clinical' books and 'family psychologists' are pleased and (unfortunately) overly-fascinated with judging and labelling what is wrong with people, but have absolutely no clue about real-life solutions people could use to independently solve problems and build strong families. Other books blame the problems strictly on a lack of morals and strong traditional religious foundation. I found Dr. Bray's book to be not only insightful, but also very comforting, helpful, hopeful, and inclusive. His insights about what makes various types of blended stepfamilies work well -- albiet, over time -- were the most appropriate and helpful comments I have encountered. He describes ways he observed folks successfully handle controlling and manipulative ex-spouses and children (of both genders); how the stepfamily changes as the children grow into adolescence; how to deal with such issues as sexuality and emotional intimacy; how successful extended/blended families of various types (step-mothers, step-fathers, step-grandparents, etc. Read more ›
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
By Tobie
This book is good for women who have custody of their children and decide to remarry. It describes issues that might be faced by the new step-father and the resulting step-family. There is just one small section about the father and his new wife. I am currently a part-time step-mother and was looking for information on how to deal with my husbands young children whom we get to see only two weekends a month. I was also looking for information on how to deal with the difficult ex-wife. This book didn't help me much. Like I said, this book is good for women with children who remarry. It just didn't fit my situation.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful analysis of a very specific situation March 1, 1999
By A Customer
I found this book to be insightful and well-written, but I did not realize when I bought it that it was based on a study of families with a natural mother and stepfather only or that the vast majority of stepfamilies described in the study were Texans.
I was particularly frustrated by two things. One was that the book focused entirely on full-time stepfathers and even part-time stepmothers, but barely mentioned full-time stepmothers. The other was that throughout the book the authors took the point of view that children have only one "real" family, which is almost always with their mother. "Visits" with their father may have benefits but are essentially disruptions for the stepfamily. Perhaps Dr. Bray could have pulled more heavily from his clinical experience and strayed more from the very focused NIH study to give us ideas on how to make true co-parenting, joint custody stepfamilies work.
Dr. Bray's conclusions about what in general can make a stepfamily work - or not work - were, however, useful. His descriptions of what can happen when a stepparent overparents too early or when parents and stepparents criticize the noncustodial parent in the presence of the children were especially telling. I used material from this book to initiate some good discussions about expectations with my fiance. It encouraged me to give more thought to stepfamily-specific issues that will affect our marriage and I do expect our marriage to be stronger for it. Also, I find the case-study approach used in this book much more reliable than the take-my-word-for-it approach many authors use. I do recommend this book, but families whose situations more closely resemble those of the families in the study will get more out of it.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Analytical and thorough May 23, 2000
Bray has written a popularization of a clinical study conducted over a decade. In it he identifies three typical stepfamily types: Neotraditional, Matriarchal, and Romantic. He also presents his theory of a stepfamily life-cycle. In my opinion, anyone contemplating remarriage with children should give this book serious study and reflection.
Unlike most self-help literature regarding stepfamilies, Bray presents serious clinical support for his assertions, although these conclusions are generally presented in apocryphal case studies to increase lay acceptance and understanding.
But he makes it clear that stepfamilies are tough. In fact, my personal review of additional clinical research indicates that Bray could be accused of soft-peddaling the difficulties a bit. The families participating in his study did not include a significant number of teenage stepchildren, and in my opinion, his conclusions regarding eventual acceptance of the stepparent is not applicable to the stepfamily with teenage children. I believe the Matriarchal stepfamily may be a significant improvement over the Neotraditional when teenagers are present.
A special note to anyone considering remarriage: I have three teenage stepchildren in my six month old remarriage. It is quite difficult, I cannot deny that, but knowing this going into the marriage has made all the difference. Bray was a major part of halping me prepare for this new life. I think he can help you, too.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Good ideas
This book provided me with good ideas on what I wasn't getting into and how things were going to play out once I did. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Maureen B. Mauri
4.0 out of 5 stars praying for a great marraige, and happy home life, and easier...
reading this book as a reccomendation from a therapist to help us with our next chapter... we are planing for success rather than failing to plan!
Published 17 months ago by gretchen feitz
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Worked Miracles For My Family
Combined family, I have 4 kids, so does he. YIKES! We sure were struggling. This book not only gave me hope, but many solutions! Read more
Published 17 months ago by Anndrea Cheney
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as new.
The book is in very good shape. As good as new. Exactly as described in the web page. I love it.
Published 24 months ago by Mariela
5.0 out of 5 stars Great resource.
As a step mom and psychotherapist, this book has been so helpful. I wish my husband and I had read it prior to blending our families. It is well-written, practical and therapeutic. Read more
Published on October 28, 2012 by Stephanie
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting study results
Not sure this is what I was looking for when I purchased this book. It basically defines three types of step-families. I was looking for more of an advice book.
Published on October 17, 2010 by AmericanIvy
3.0 out of 5 stars Exercise in intellectualizing stepfamily dynamics
This is a good source of reference for understanding stepfamily dynamics. What I found difficult was the style that it was presented. Read more
Published on August 3, 2010 by Michele Lee B.
5.0 out of 5 stars Got a lot of needed answers
I was searching for a book that might help explain and provide answers to many of the complexities of blended families. Read more
Published on August 11, 2008 by Rebecca Domerchie
4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Study of Stepfamily Life
This book is a "scholarly" work, but still readable. The author teaches at Baylor University and did a clear, lengthy study of certain types of stepfamilies in Texas. Read more
Published on August 14, 2007 by Barbara Sheldon, M.S.W.
4.0 out of 5 stars Good insight for parents in stepfamilies
Bray's research gives those of us struggling with stepfamily life a lot of helpful, supportive information. Read more
Published on April 5, 2007 by Amazon Customer
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