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Thursday, June 24, 1999 Published at 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK


Life in a stepfamily

The Bonds found the transition period difficult

One in eight British children are now living in a stepfamily, but many feel excluded from any decisions about their future.

The National Stepfamily Association (NSA) says 18 million people now live as part of a stepfamily.

By 2010, it estimates there will be more stepfamilies than birth families.

The BBC's Rachel Ellison: "18 million people in the UK are living as a stepfamily"
The BBC has obtained an exclusive preview of research by the NSA which looks at children's attitudes to living in a stepfamily.

It found that many young people wanted to feel that someone was listening to them.

Some saw the experience of being part of a larger family as a positive experience, meaning they had more people to support them.

But many felt powerless and excluded.

Somewhere to talk

Dorit Braun of the NSA says each child has a different experience of the situation.

[ image: Liz Bond: It is difficult to feel the same towards other people's children]
Liz Bond: It is difficult to feel the same towards other people's children
"But we found that overwhelmingly children want to talk about their feelings in safety.

"They want an atmosphere where they can say what it is like to one another."

She called for adults and child professionals to make it easier for children to talk about their experiences.

The NSA is holding a conference in London on 8 July which will debate this subject.

Different relationship

Liz and Patrick Bond from Sheffield have six children between them.

Liz had two daughters before she met Patrick and Patrick had three sons. The couple also have a child together.

Patrick said it was difficult adjusting to different styles of parenting.

"I have been on my own for six years and we were more like a commando unit than a family.

"I used to shout a lot at the boys, but when I did it to the girls they just crumbled."

[ image: Liz Braun: Children need to be listened to]
Liz Braun: Children need to be listened to
Liz says she also had problems. "You do not love someone else's children in the way you love your own," she said.

"It is quite different. Being a mother in the same house where you are being a mother to your own children, when you do not have the same natural motherly feelings is very difficult."

Dorit Braun says this kind of experience is quite common, but she puts a positive spin on it.

"It is hard as a step-parent to love someone else's children in the same way. It is a different feeling and a different relationship. But it can bring emotional distance.

"When a child is becoming an adolescent, having that distance can be quite a help."

The Bonds say the arrival of their own daughter Amy helped to unite the family.

The children say they have had to make adaptions.

One said she had been the eldest in her family and could boss her sister around, but in the new family she got bossed around a lot.

But there are positive things about their birth parents' divorce.

One said that because she saw each one separately, she had more time with them.

"And it is like having an extra dad," she added.

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