New data shows American families are growing in size despite Americans having fewer children than ever before. According to a recent survey conducted by the University of Massachusetts Boston, the average number of adult children increased by 66% when couples included stepchildren in the family headcount.
The survey analyzed American households headed by married and unmarried cohabiting couples over and under the age of 55. Survey data showed that up to 33% of each household with couples over 55 had at least one stepchild. Additionally, a third of households with couples under 55 had at least on stepparent.
Sadly, over 50% of American marriages end in divorce. The growing size of the American family stems from the rise in divorce and remarriage in the United States and up to 41% of all first marriages end in divorce.
The average age of a first-time parent is between 24 and 26 years old. This increases the likelihood of having a child become a part of the divorce process as the average age of the first-time divorcee is 30-years-old.
However, it isn’t younger Americans who are increasing the rate of divorce. Surprisingly, the divorce rate for those over 50 has doubled in the last 20 years. A study conducted by Bowling Green State University shows approximately 30% of Americans over 50 have been married more than once and 40% of those with children have stepfamilies.
According to Bloomberg, stepfamilies can create complex family dynamics. For instance, the presence of stepparents increases the number of elderly parents to take care of in the future.
“The increased availability of kin does not fully compensate for the weaker bonds among family members in stepfamilies,” said the UMass Boston study. However, family bonds among genetic families aren’t necessarily stronger than those of blended families.
“… Family is special only if the bond is special,” said My Beautiful Genome author Lone Frank to The Guardian. “It’s not a shared bloodline that matters, but rather a shared and deep understanding of each other, one that depends on a feeling of common ground, not guaranteed by DNA.”