The Brady Bunch Grows Ip

Stepsiblings

If the Brady Bunch kids left home, would they keep in touch? Or would the three golden girls lose track of their darkhaired stepbrothers? We'll never know for sure, but if the nation's favorite fantasy family is anything like real America, chances are that the stepsiblings would remain friends.

At least for awhile. The bonds, however, might grow weak with age—just when siblings tend to need each other most.

As fertility rates decline and divorce rates remain high, the solidarity of blended sibships will become increasingly important for preserving a sense of family, report Nebraska sociologists Lynn White, Ph.D., and Agnes Riedman, Ph.D. So they looked at the ties that bind among a sample of 11,000 adults from the 1987-88 National Survey of Families and Households.

For starters, they're not as sociable as their full-sibling counterparts. But 99.5 percent of step- and half-siblings know where their counterparts reside, the team reports in the journal of Marriage and Family (Vol. 34, 1992).

And stepsibs see each other one to three times a year. That surprises White, a professor at the University of Nebraska. "My initial expectation was that adults would have a great deal less to do with stepbrothers and -sisters than their full siblings."

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Along with Riedman, of Creighton University, White found a smattering of differences in the relationships between kin and non-kin sibs. From these, the team identified seven factors that facilitate contact between step-, half-, and full siblings:

o Proximity. Step-, half-, and full sibs living within 300 miles of each other report more contact than those far away.

o Age. Step- and half-siblings visit each other more often as young adults than when older.

o Race. Black respondents contact their step half-, and full siblings far more often than non-blacks.

o Sex. Women are more likely than men to see their stepsibs.

o Religion. Catholics are slighly more likely than nonCatholics to stay in touch with with their step- and half-sibs.

o Family. The later step- and half-sibs leave home, the more contact they have with all their adult sibs.

o Gender of step-parent. Sibs who live with a stepfather visit their sibs more often than those living with a stepmother.

Say White and Reidman: Step- and half-siblings may be less distant than once believed, but they may not feel as obligated as full sibs "to drop everything and go feed sick sibs chicken soup."

PHOTO: Are Greg and Marsha still close? Does Peter stay in touch with Jan?

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?