Conflict in a "broken" family

Definition of a broken family:
A broken family consists of a biological family
that has separated for specific reasons that
 may result in single-parent families, stepfamilies,
 or blended families.

  family                                           mom & boy


There are many effects on children in broken homes.....

- behavior  & learning problems
< children may experience behavior problems at school with teachers, acting out against peers, and generally not wanting to cooperate with any assignments or instructions, and they also may have diffifulties concentrating and understanding assignments. Children might lean toward the negative side to peer pressure. At home, children may act out against siblings, their biological parent and a possible stepparent.  It was found that adolexcents had fewer behavior problems if there is a positive relationship not ony with biological parents, but if stepparents are involved, specailly a strong relationship with stepfathers (White &  Gilbreth, 2001, as cited in Santrock, 2005, p. 336).

 - emotional issues

Children tend to have a hard time dealing with change.  When a parent leaves the family, a stepparent joins the family, or the child doesn't feel like their emotional needs are being met by their mother, they may express feelings of anger, resentment, confusion and jealousy.  This can bring on loneliness, isolation, depression and low self-esteem if children don't know how to express their feelings properly (Bigner, 2002).

- high levels of parent-child disagreements

If children are confused with different things going on in the family

or at school and they have feelings of frustration, more disagreements

may occur.  Behavior problems tend to increase for boys when a
step-father is introduced to the family (Muzi, 2000). 

- low levels of parent-child interactions

In single family homes, children develop greater autonomy where they

tend to spend more time alone or with peers.  It was found that sons are

more likely to resist directives and rules, where as daughters typically

have a closer relationship to their mother (Freeman, 2002). However, if

mothers inappropriately discuss financial matters with their children

or express a negative feeling toward their ex-spouse, it can decrease the
desire for the child to spend tine with the parent due to increase
confusion about the whole situation (Bigner, 2002).
- adjustment problems
adjusting issues that children may have include academic problems,
internalizing and externalixing problems, low self esteem, and early

engagement in sexual activities (Anderson & others, 1999, as cited in

Santrock, 2005, p. 336).

A great resource on different problems and issues can be found on
  The Allen Group homepage

Conflict in families and coping with stepfamiy issues....
        »Watch for distress in the child.
          »Notice if the child prefers to be alone to cope -vs-
            taking about the issue.
          »Watch for the child expressing feelings of anger and
          »Don't push the issue of bonding with a stepparent...
            it may take awhile, especially where areas of
            discipline are concerned. The biological parent
            should have the main authority role to ease the
            transition (Santrock, 2005).
          »Have open communication with all family members.
          »Respect boundaries and have patience with everyone
            accepting change.
          »Understand that it's natural for everyone to have
            feelings of anxiety, fear and guilt (Muzi, 2000).

Locate additional information on stepfamiy facts and findings

Conflict in families and coping with single parent family issues....

»Prioritize between work, school, events and family.
»Get support and spend time with your children as much as possible.
»Don't go overboard on discipline.  Some things children do are a normal part of their development and some parents
jump on their children making more rules/restrictions,
which only worsen the problem.
»If possible, try to keep the other parent involved, or an adult
figure of the opposite sex, to provide more stability. 
Model a healthy, positive relationship so all the
 responsibility isn't on one person.

More information on these can be found at How to make it work

Some basic statistics....
One in three Americans is a member of a


         Half of America's youth are or will be
         involved in one or more stepfamily situations
         during their lifespan.

  Of children under 18 years of age living with 2
   parents, 76.1% are living with both biological
   parents, 10.3 % are living with their biological
   mother and a stepfather, .6% are living with
   their biological father and a stepmother, and the
   other 10% have other living situtions.

                Of American children under 18 years of
                age living in single parent homes, the
                majority live with their biological mother
                versus their biological father.

Additional resources for single parents and tips to aid in coping can be found at
Single Parent Central

For resources on adjusting to stepfamilies, go to...
Stepfamily adjustment

For resources on effective parenting go to...
Great Parenting Tips

Other references used...

Bigner, J. (2002). Parent-Child Relations: An Intoduction to Parenting. (6th ed).
       Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Freeman, H. S. Family transitions during the adolescent transition: implications
       for parenting. Adolescence. Fall 2002. Retrieved September 27, 2004 online via

Muzi, M. J. (2000). The experience of Parenting. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.