Monday 19 April 2021

New study delves into challenges blended families face

The challenges blended families face are going to be studied for the first time in Malta to equip policymakers with the in-depth research necessary to address their unique needs.

Although the structure of the traditional nuclear family has been changing for years, there are very few studies that delve into the complications faced by new blended families, especially children, and the Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society is hoping to address this.

The goals behind this study were presented to Speaker Anglu Farrugia in Parliament today by University of Malta academics Angela Abela, Sue Vella and Suzanne Piscopo, who are also experts for the MFWS.

A blended family, also called a step family, is a reconstituted family unit where one or both parents have children from a previous relationship, but they have combined to form a new family. Parents may be in a same-sex or heterosexual relationship and may, or may not, have children with each other.

MFWS chair Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said the readjustment and struggles children often faced in new family structures was an area of concern that had not been properly researched.

“As MFWS, we wanted to start this conversation as there is no visibility on children growing up in blended families and the bonds they have to strike with new partners and siblings. This research will give us a clearer understanding of the situation,” Ms Coleiro Preca said.

Prof. Abela, from the University of Malta’s Department of Family Studies, explained that a 2016 study among 2,400 participants had for the first time shown that 53 per cent of those who were divorced and 37 per cent of those who had separated, were now in a new relationship.

Further research brought to the fore the complications these blended family units  presented when it came to juggling new family needs and expectations with those of previous partners, as well as the upbringing of children from previous or new relationships.

Uncertainties over acceptance frequently arose when it came to introducing children to the new partner; facing the possible prejudices of the new partner’s family; and adjusting to the new family structures, especially when there were children from both sides.

Prof. Abela explained that all too often the voices and perspectives of children who had to readjust to these blended family units were ignored, so this new study will have a sharper focus on children, tying in the with the MFWS’s philosophy for overall wellbeing in society.

“Blended families and their particular needs have been practically invisible, so this study is important because it will help form a better understanding of these families in the Maltese contest, while also contributing these findings on an international dimension,” Prof. Abela said.

The qualitative research will include 80 interviews with every member of 20 families and the findings will be presented in December 2022.

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