Definition extracted with permission from Simon, Fritz, et al, Family Process, Inc.: Language of Family Therapy: A Systemic Vocabulary and Source Book (Family Process Press Series)
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Divorce, and the consequent re-formation of partnerships whereby a father or a mother is replaced by a stepfather or stepmother, is an increasingly frequent phenomenon. Because the absent parent continues to play a parental, albeit limited role, and continues to claim certain rights with regard to the newly formed family, the children are often exposed to a conflict of loyalties. The stepfather or stepmother, with the latter's decidedly negative role in folklore and fairy tales, is placed in a difficult position. The multiplicity of roles in blended families can lead to confusion, distress, and family disorganization.