Traditional Nuclear Family vs. Blended Family

Kristy Jackson

Communication Department

CSU, Sacramento

In today's society, a strong indicator of the variety of family structures in which children live is the number of definitions of the term family structure. I have focused on the two opposite family structures- the traditional nuclear family and the blended family.

A traditional nuclear family consists of a married couple and their biological child or children. A child in a traditional nuclear family lives with both biological parents, if siblings are present, only full brothers and sisters (that is, siblings who share the same two biological parents). No other persons are present in the household (that is, no steprelatives, foster and adopted children, half-siblings, and other relatives or non-relatives).

A blended family/blended household includes at least one step-parent, stepsiblings, and/or half-siblings. A step-parent is the spouse of the child's biological parent but is not the child's biological parent. Step-siblings do not share a common biological parent; the biological parent of one child is the step-parent of the other. Half-siblings share only one biological parent.

Out of all the different definitions of family structure, some children may be described as living in more than one category of family structure.

Which family structure is best for children?

Some researchers have demonstrated that children of blended families do worse, on average, than children in the traditional nuclear family. They have found that children of blended families (or children of divorce) score lower on measures of academic achievement, conduct, psychological adjustment, and the quality of mother-child and father-child relationships. However, others qualify these types of findings by emphasizing that these outcomes are not true for all children of blended families, only some children.

The children of a traditional nuclear family may not be better off in the long run. Children suffer from pre-divorce stress. Assuming there is parental conflict, children will pick up on the variables which effect the probability of divorce:

-non-compatible gender roles

-parental differenees

-boredom with every day married life

-financial difficulty

The key faetor in having emotionally stable children is parenting. Regardless of your family structure, keep your parenting style consistent. At all times you must be loving, caring, and patient. Be willing to teach and communicate openly with your kids. Remember, parenting is a lifetime commitment, do not give up!


Rosemond, John. Better Homes and Gardens: "Blended Families... one step at a time." Feb. 1994 v72 n2 p56.

Wassil-Grimm, Claudette. (1994). Where's Daddy? The Overlook Press: Woodstock, New York. (P. 199-217).

Hilton, Jeanne M.; and Devall, Esther L. Journal of Divorce and Remarriage: "Comparison of parenting and children's behavior in single-mother, single-father, and intact families." Nov-Dec 1998 v29 i3 p23(3).

Adams, Rebecca; and Utesch, William. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences: "Working With Children From One-Parent Homes in the Child-Care Setting." Fall l99X v90 i3 p55(5).