Blended families pose problems for teens: study

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Struggling with low grades and behavior problems? If you are a teen living within a blended family you can blame it on your half- or stepsiblings.

A new study by researchers at Florida State University shows that teenagers in families with different biological parents have lower grades and more behavior problems in school than other adolescents, and these traits may not improve over time.

“These findings imply that family formation patterns that bring together children who have different sets of biological parents may not be in the best interests of the children involved,” said Kathryn Harker Tillman, a professor of sociology at the university.

“Yet one-half of all American stepfamilies include children from previous relationships of both partners, and the majority of parents in stepfamilies go on to have additional children together,” she added in a statement.

Tillman, who studied data on more than 11,000 teens, found that adolescents who lived with both half- and step-siblings do better than those who live with only one or the other.

She believes it could be because the parents in these families to have a child together, which reflects a stable relationship or one in which child rearing is especially important.

Boys living with half- or stepsiblings had the most difficulty adjusting, according to the research published in the journal Social Science Research.

Problems may arise because teens feel they have to compete for parental attention, combined with the stress of living with nontraditional siblings, according to the study.

A new parent figure can also increase stress in young people because their relationships tend to be more conflict-ridden, Tillman explained.

“We cannot assume that over time, children will naturally adjust to the new roles and relationships that arise when families are blended,” she said, adding that the research indicated that the effects of new step-siblings or half-siblings may remain negative or worsen over time.

Reporting by Julie Mollins; editing by Patricia Reaney