A controversial study has found that stepfathers are “more engaged, more co-operative and shared more responsibility than their biological counterparts did.” Based in the United States, this research negates the widely held belief that biological fathers are better suited to the role of parenting their own children.
Interviews were conducted with 2,098 urban mothers from the Fragile Families And Child Wellbeing study. The children involved in the study had been born between 1998 and 2000 and were five years old when the most recent interview was conducted.
Some professionals in the field believe that it would be scientifically erroneous to apply this study’s findings to all family dynamics in which a stepfather is present. Sydney psychologist Grant Brecht said, “There is no reason why stepfathers cannot make incredibly good parents and they may be more attentive. But I think you have to look at it case by case.”
Lawrence Berger of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the study’s author, said that mothers who participated in the study were more likely to have similar parenting perspectives with their children’s stepfathers than their biological fathers. In addition, the stepfathers too were more open about discussing their wants and needs as parental figures for the adopted child.
Stepfathers need to make the extra effort to blend in with the family and to feel useful as a parent. That additional level of concern translates to a greater interest in parenting. But biological fathers should still work on being strong influences in their children’s lives as well. The ideal is for children to be surrounded by as many loving and caring people as possible to contribute to their healthy development.