4 in 10 US Adults Have Step Relatives

January 19, 2011

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pew-stepfamily-jan-2011.JPGMore than four in 10 American adults (42%) have at least one step relative in their family, according to a nationwide Pew Research Center survey. The highest percentage report having a step or half-sibling (30%), followed by living stepparent (18%), and stepchild (13%).

Women, Young Adults, Blacks Most Likely to Have Step Relatives

pew-stepfamily-demographic-jan-2011.JPGWomen (44%) are 10% more likely than men (40%) to have at least one step relative. Step relatives are also more common with younger adults: 18-to-29-year-olds have the highest frequency (52%), which gradually decreases to the lowest frequency of 34% among adults 65 and older.

Looking at racial demographics, blacks (60%) are far more likely to have at least one step relative than either Hispanics (46%) or whites (39%). Black adults have the highest frequency of step relatives of any demographic researched by Pew for this study.

In addition, lower levels of education are associated with higher frequency of step relatives. Forty-seven percent of adults with a high school education or less have at least one step relative, compared to 45% of adults with some college education and 33% with a college degree.

Differences by geographic region are less pronounced. Adults living in the West (45%) and South (44%) are roughly 10% more likely to have at least one step relative than adults living in the Midwest or East (39% in each region).

Biological Family Creates More Feeling of Obligation

pew-stepfamily-obligation-jan-2011.JPGMost adults who have step relatives feel a stronger sense of obligation to their biological family members than they do to their step kin. Among adults who have both a living parent and a living stepparent, 85% say they would feel very obligated to help out their parent, while 56% say they would feel a similar sense of obligation toward their stepparent.

Parents feel almost as obligated to their grown children as adult children feel to their aging parents. Overall, 77% of parents with at least one grown child say they would feel very obligated to help that child if need be.

Among adults who have both a grown biological child and a grown stepchild, the biological child exerts a stronger pull. Nearly eight in 10 (78%) of these parents say they would feel very obligated to provide assistance to a grown child. Closer to six in 10 (62%) say they would feel equally obligated to their grown stepchild.

Similarly, adults are more inclined to come to the aid of their biological siblings than they are to assist their step or half siblings. Among those who have both biological siblings and step or half siblings, 64% say they would feel very obligated to a sibling who was in serious trouble. Only 42% say they would feel very obligated to provide assistance to a step or half sibling.

However, even though step relatives trail biological relatives in each of these measures, they do slightly better overall than a “best friend” (39%).

Half of Couples Reach 25th Anniversary

The risk of a marriage ending, both from divorce and death, rises as it lasts longer, according to recent Pew analysis of US Census Bureau Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) 2004 data which shows in any given year, short-duration marriages are most likely to be intact.

As one illustration, among men who got married for the first time between 1970 and 1974, 89% were still married to the same wife on their fifth anniversary, 74% on their 10th anniversary and 65% on their 15th anniversary. By their 20th anniversary, 58% were married, and by their 25th, 54% were.

Trends for women who married during the early 1970s are similar to those for men, but the shares still married to their initial spouse on each anniversary are lower as women are more likely to be widowed than men.

About the Data: The Pew Research Center surveyed 2,691 US adults from Oct. 1-21, 2010.


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