Authors:Ferenc Kocsor, András Láng, Andreas Babós, and Petra Gyuris
Background and objectives
The complex relationships within patchwork families can be examined in the light of various intermediate-level evolutionary theories, such as kin selection theory, parental investment theory, and parent-offspring conflict theory. These together with recent findings that shed light on the functioning of family subsystems, can contribute to a better understanding of how patchwork families work today. In the current research, we attempted to examine the extent to which these models successfully predict the functioning of mosaic families in Hungary.
In the first part of the data collection, both members of adult sibling – including both full and half siblings – completed questionnaires about their childhood relationship. The second set of questionnaires was completed by parents who had raised at least two children with their partner, either as genetically related or stepparents. We wanted to know whether parents perceive their children's relationship as it follows from evolutionary theories. We also investigated whether couple functioning between parents could affect the relationship between siblings.
The results partly contradict our hypotheses. Only age difference had a significant effect on conflicts between siblings and parental partiality, and degree of kinship did not play a role. When parents were more dissatisfied with their relationship, they perceived the relationship of half-siblings to be less close, whereas more cooperative parents perceived the relationship of full siblings to be closer.
The internal functioning of patchwork families cannot be directly derived from evolutionary theories. It seems that fitness interdependence and the need for the family members to meet each other's expectations tend to overshadow biased behaviours in everyday relationships that could result from increasing inclusive fitness and allocating parental efforts according to genetic interests. Although these results are not conclusive, age differences may be more important than kinship in the relationship between half- and full siblings.