Between a nuclear family and a stepfamily : growing up with married biological parents and older halfsiblings
Shared children in stepfamilies (i.e., those who are born into the repartnered family; they live with married biological parents and older half-siblings) have been found to fare worse than other sibling groups on a variety of outcomes. Little is known, however, about the qualitative experiences of these individuals. Using descriptive phenomenology, I conducted interviews with 20 shared children to answer the research question: What is the nature of the experience of being a shared child in a (step) family? Participants ranged in age from 19 to 30 and lived in the same household with their halfsibling( s) for at least some time growing up. Findings indicated that the shared children’s life-world contexts were shaped by living in a hybrid “step-nuclear” family; their experiences were characterized by the tension of ‘reorganizing’ as a nuclear unit but doing so within a larger stepfamily structure. The overriding phenomenon of participants’ experiences was regulating family privacy boundaries – privacy rules existed surrounding sensitive information about family relatedness, marital histories, stepfamily dynamics, and more. In the absence of information, these children hypothesized about the topics that were not openly discussed in their families – a key part of their lived experiences. Practical implications of the findings are discussed.