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Divorce: parents with multiple roles may become depressed

It is not unusual these days for couples in New York to divorce. Unfortunately, the end of a marriage affects not only the spouses but also their children in some profoundly emotional ways, especially when it comes to child custody.

Often after divorce, one or both spouses remarries. That often creates situations in which a spouse with physical custody of his or her children creates a new family, often with the new spouse's own children. In fact, the growth of blended families has been something of a phenomenon that creates new family law issues as well as psychological challenges to stepparents and stepchildren.

In a blended family, spouses can end up playing several roles. They may have to be parent to the children they brought into the marriage, stepparent to the children who came with the new spouse and parent for any child born later into the blended family. Research conducted at Brigham Young University and Princeton suggests that stepparents with multiple family roles have the highest stress levels.

Analyzing data collected from more than 6,000 parents across the United States, researchers found that both mothers and fathers experienced among the highest stress levels of all parents. Depression risks increase for both mothers and fathers as the number of parenting roles increase.

Parents performing three roles were more likely to be depressed than parents with just one role, researchers concluded. They also found that parenting norms exist for intact families but not for families with stepparents, who are not quite sure what role they need to play. Much of the stress experienced by parents in blended families comes from their desire to be good parents and stepparents as well as good new parents.

Source:, "Parenting and depression study: Fathers are at risk, too," Feb. 5, 2015

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