Shedding new light on the in-laws fairy-tale stereotype – sciencedaily


Although the fairy tale of the Evil Stepmother is as old as time, the effects of mixing the children with their new blended families may not be as dark as it once thought.

In fact, new research shows that stepchildren are not at a disadvantage compared to their peers from single-parent families and in fact perform better than their half-siblings – good news for the over 113 million people. ‘Americans who are part of a beautiful relationship.

Led by anthropologist Ryan Schacht of the University of East Carolina and researchers at the University of Utah, the study “Was Cinderella Just a Fairy Tale?” Differences in survival between stepchildren and their half-siblings ”, is available in the May edition of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

The study challenges the “Cinderella effect” theory. The effect argues that conflicts within stepfamilies over physical, financial and emotional resources lead to higher mortality risks for stepchildren and are a major contributor to higher rates of abuse and neglect. The phenomenon suggests that step-parents play a major role in this abuse, accumulating resources for their biological children and leading to negative outcomes for step-children.

Schacht suggests that previous studies blamed the negative outcomes associated with parental loss on in-laws, but did so through an “apples to oranges comparison.” Specifically, they compare the long-term outcomes of children who have experienced trauma such as the loss of their parents versus children from stable households. When the team compared stepchildren outcomes more appropriately among children who also experienced the economic and emotional hardships associated with losing their parents, they found no difference. More specifically, the introduction of step-parents did not increase the mortality of stepchildren.

“The idea of ​​a step-parent, especially a mother-in-law, as an agent of evil seems like a story as old as time,” Schacht said. “It’s easy to sell the result of the Cinderella Effect because we’ve been told these stories about the issues blended families have been experiencing for hundreds of years.

“We are not denying that some stepchildren are suffering,” he said. “However, if we truly believe that it is the step-parent that is the source of negative outcomes for a step-son, then we have to compare similar environments and experiences. A child who has not lost a parent by death or divorce did not experience the same trauma as a stepson; comparing these two experiences and blaming the step-parent for conflicting results is not a fair comparison. “

The study compared the mortality of stepchildren whose parents remarried after the death of a spouse to children whose parents did not remarry and found three key results:

* Parental mortality has a negative effect on children under the age of 18, especially for infants who have lost their mother;

* Children whose parents remarried after the loss of a spouse did not experience a higher mortality rate than children whose parents did not remarry; and

* Stepchildren received a protective effect when a stepbrother was introduced to their new family.

“Measures of what makes a family successful – household stability, relationship stability and economic stability – are obtained by in-laws who invest in their stepchildren to make them a reality. antagonistic approach does not make sense if the in-laws want their relationship to be successful. “

The research team analyzed a data set of more than 400,000 Utah children from 1847 to 1940. Schacht said the period allowed analysis of step-child mortality rates in families for a period of time. period of natural fertility when families were larger and most stepfamilies were formed due to the death of a parent.

The study adds that children who have experienced parental loss have more in common with their peers in single-parent households, who face many of the same disparities in education, economics and health care.

Schacht hopes the study will shed light on public policy funding for interventions aimed at families who have suffered the loss of their parents.

Source of the story:

Material provided by University of East Carolina. Original written by Matt Smith. Note: Content can be changed for style and length.


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