When a couple decides to enter a second marriage after divorce, there are several issues that should be of paramount importance. Perhaps the biggest issue is how the new family will be blended (which has an enormous impact on the quality of life the children of either of the spouses’ will experience).
Steven M Cohn, PhD
The Portland Couples Counseling Center
1940 NE Broadway
Portland, Oregon 97232
As many as one-third of adult children of divorce, interviewed 20 years after the event, remember the remarriage of one of their parents as even more stressful than the divorce. Two-thirds of those reporting stress stated that the father’s remarriage was more stressful than the mother’s. Moreover, children who had a poor relationship with their fathers following a divorce reported that they had distant, negative, or nonexistent relationships with their paternal grandparents, stepmother, and step-siblings. However, children who reported that their parents were cooperative following the divorce stated they had good relationships with their parents, grandparents, step-parents and step-siblings.(1)
Other issues that may create stress for children whose parents enter a second marriage after divorce include awkward descriptive problems, confused kinship patterns, and conflicting roles and allegiances. These social issues can contribute to confusion and anxiety, particularly among adolescents.
When discussing second marriage following divorce, it is important to note that the relationship between parents and their children is already lopsided based on parent gender (in favor of the mother). Even during the marriage, fathers receive less support from their children than do mothers. The gap in support level grows with divorce, and grows still further with remarriage, particularly when new children are introduced to the family.(2)
This issue of intergenerational support has an ethnic component as well. In a study supported by the National Institute of Aging, researchers found that support for parents was less likely among white Americans of European ancestry and Latinos, while Asian Americans and African Americans were more likely to believe that younger adults should assist older kin. As might be expected, all groups believed that parents should be helped more than step-parents.(3)
It is a well-established fact that women often experience economic difficulties following divorce, even if their children provide some assistance. Women who had a low income before divorce are more likely than those with high incomes to remarry if their income declines soon after the divorce. In fact, countries that have high social welfare availability see women waiting longer to remarry than those countries who have less public assistance available.(4)
Although these issues must be given proper consideration by any parent considering a second marriage after divorce, none of this is to say that remarriage is a bad thing. Rather, this article’s purpose is to highlight some of the issues that may impact a family following remarriage and to serve as the basis for discussion between family members.
Further, if you are struggling with the impact on your family of a second marriage after divorce, you may want to consult a Relationship Specialist for personalized assistance.
(1)Ahrons, Constance R. Family Ties After Divorce: Long-Term Implications for Children. Family Process 46(1): 53-65. 2006.
(2)Matthijs, Kalmijn Gender Differences in the Effects of Divorce, Widowhood, and Remarriage on Intergenerational Support: Does Marriage Protect Fathers? Social Forces 85(3): 1079-1109. March, 2007.
(3)Coleman, Marilyn, Ganong, Lawrence H., and Rothrauff, Tanja C. Racial and Ethnic Similarities and Differences in Beliefs About Intergenerational Assistance to Older Adults After Divorce and Remarriage. Family Relations 55(5): 576-587. December, 2006.
(4)Dewilde, Caroline and Uunk, Wilfred. Remarriage as a Way to Overcome the Financial Consequences of Divorce – A Test of the Economic Need Hypothesis for European Women. European Sociological Review 24(3):393-407, 2008.
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