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Testing time frames in blended families: the effects of the birth of a common child in a blended family

Justine Vincent

Research framework: This article is based on a sociological study focusing on birth within blended families. It stems from the tension these families are experiencing — the need to reconcile the search for a new beginning of a new couple and the weight of a past they didn’t share. This issue is embodied, symbolically and physically, by children from previous unions.

Objectives: The question of time is essential to understanding what is at stake in the process of family blending. This issue also becomes increasingly important in that it puts kinship ties into play. A common child is often the focus of this desire to start over and contributes to writing a common story for the stakeholders within a reconstituted family.

Methodology: Drawing from interviews conducted in France with seven men and nine women in stepfamilies who had a new child with their current partner, we seek to analyze the effect that the birth of a common child had on timeframes of blending families.

Results: While the birth of a common child creates a memory with a high emotional charge, it is a way of maintaining links within the new couple regardless of its outcome. It also leads the new parents to face the unattainable connection of their previous distinct trajectories. This gap influences negotiations and sets apart men and women, as well as parents who already have a child versus first-time parents. Furthermore, once the child is born, their continuous presence within the blended household, in contrast to the children born from other relationships who travel back and forth, is a reminder of how non-standard the family situation has become.

Conclusion: Substantial reorganization and reflection are put into establishing daily life in a blended household ; especially given that it has already undergone a seismic shift in the cycle of family life at home.

Contribution: From this research on the timelines of blending families, the question of when is the “right time” is further explored.