The article “Parental Involvement in Stepfamilies: Biology, Relationship Type, Residence, and Gender” by Ece Arat, Anne-Rigt Poortman, and Tanja van der Lippe, explores the determinants of parental involvement in various types of stepfamilies. The study is set against a backdrop of increasing divorce and repartnering rates, leading to a diverse array of family structures and a need to understand the dynamics of parental involvement across these structures. Utilizing data from the New Families in the Netherlands (NFN) survey, the research aims to fill gaps in existing literature by examining not just traditional married stepfamilies with resident children but also more recent forms such as living-apart-together (LAT) stepfamilies and those with joint physical custody.

Key findings include:

  1. Biological Parent vs. Stepparent Involvement: The study confirms a “stepgap” in parental involvement, where biological parents are more involved in their children’s lives than stepparents. This gap is smaller in married stepfamilies, followed by cohabiting stepfamilies and LAT stepfamilies, suggesting that marital status and co-residence patterns significantly influence the extent of parental involvement.
  2. Impact of Child Residence: Children residing full-time with a parent or stepparent experience higher levels of parental involvement compared to those in part-time residence or living mainly with the other parent. The presence of full-time resident children is associated with the highest parental involvement, indicating that the child’s residence plays a crucial role in shaping parental engagement.
  3. Gender Differences in Parental Involvement: The research initially hypothesized a larger stepgap for mothers compared to fathers, suggesting gendered expectations around parenting roles could influence the dynamics of parental involvement in stepfamilies. However, the findings revealed no significant gender difference in the stepgap once the child’s residence was considered. This suggests that the observed differences in previous studies might stem from other factors, such as the child’s age or the specific parenting tasks involved.
  4. Role of Relationship Type and Child’s Residence: The study further examines how the type of stepparent relationship (married, cohabiting, LAT) and the child’s residence (full-time, part-time, nonresident) interact to affect parental involvement. It was found that the stepgap varies according to these factors, with biological parents in resident arrangements showing higher involvement than their stepparent counterparts, highlighting the complex interplay between family structure and parental engagement.

The article underscores the significance of biological relatedness, type of relationship, and the child’s residence as key determinants of parental involvement in stepfamilies. It also nuances the understanding of gender roles in parenting within these family structures. The findings have implications for policymakers and practitioners working with blended families, emphasizing the need to consider the diverse configurations of stepfamilies and their impact on child outcomes. Future research is encouraged to explore longitudinal effects and include qualitative aspects of parent-child relationships to build a more comprehensive understanding of stepfamily dynamics.

Arat, E., Poortman, A., & van der Lippe, T. (2022). Parental involvement in stepfamilies: Biology, relationship type, residence, and gender. Journal of Marriage and Family, 84(3), 773-790. doi: