According to new research, stepfathers are at greater risk of depression than biological fathers.
Academics specialising in social and family life analysed data from an ongoing relationship survey, examining the role of step parent in family situations.
They concluded that “step parenting issues are negatively associated with [relationship] satisfaction and stability”. Step parents are required to fulfil parenting different roles in relation to their step-children, any existing biological children, and any new children they have with their current partner – and this variety of roles is associated with an increase in depression rates for both mothers and fathers. Parents who have such triple roles are 57 per cent more likely to be depressed than other parents who less complex family lives.
However, men experience higher levels of stress and pressure than mothers, the researchers claim – especially the majority of stepfathers whose biological children do not live with him. The latter often report feelings of guilt about spending more time with their stepchildren or younger biological children.
Kevin Shafer of the School of Social Work at Brigham Young University in the United States said:
“If you say parenting and depression, the first thing people think of is post-partum moms… But both moms and dads experience stress and certain kinds of parenting roles can be very, very stressful”.
The study stresses the importance of “high quality communication”, saying this “may be a protective factor for individuals and couples stressed by their relationship with a nonbiological child.”
Stepparenting issues and relationship quality: The role of clear communication is available in the January 2015 edition of the Journal of Social Work.