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Blended Family Drama

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Unlike childless characters who undergo a Relationship Upgrade, single parents have their kids to think of, and their offspring will need an adjustment phase. This trope is about the blended family unit formed by the union of the two single parents, as well as the growing pains this entails.

Like any family story, there are several ways this premise can go. On the parents' side, they might clash over their different parenting styles and dynamics with the children, have trouble winning over their new stepchildren, or the exes (if still alive) might pop up and cause drama between the parents or with the kids. On the new stepchildren's side, they might dislike each other, like each other too much, worry about how the new stepparent will treat them, or disapprove of the parents' relationship, possibly to the point of Relationship Sabotage. They might even want their other biological parent back and might tell their new stepparent "You're Not My Father". And of course, adjusting to living with more people is hard no matter how nice everyone is to each other, especially if the combined family winds up with Massive Numbered Siblings.

The amount of drama the new family brings can vary — learning to get along might form the whole plot of the work, or the first thirty minutes. Usually, the blended family will settle into a more harmonious dynamic by the end...unless they veer straight into Dysfunctional Family territory.

The Wicked Stepmother generally does not feature in modern iterations of this trope — it's usually the Good Stepmother who tries to keep the peace in Dom Coms, but the former might see mileage in older works, usually with her own horrible children. Remarrying for Your Kids might feature this in the aftermath. See also Nuclear Family and Happily Adopted. May include Flirty Stepsiblings or Half-Sibling Angst.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Citrus heavily blends (get it?) this with Flirty Stepsiblings. Yuzu's single mother remarries out of the blue, and Yuzu gets off on the wrong foot with Mei before even finding out that they're now stepsisters. Of course, their mutual attraction does throw a wrench into the whole "stepsisters" thing. Later, the manga also reveals that their parents' new marriage is a Sexless Marriage, and Yuzu's mother only married Mei's father so she could care for Mei.
  • Lady!! starts with the death of Misuzu Midorikawa, Lynn's mother, leaving her father George widowed for the second time. When the Russell family faces financial difficulties, Duke Woburn (George's father) insists he marry Madeleine Waverly, a wealthy Baroness, to alleviate the family's debts. He is blind to Madeleine's true nature - that she's a cruel Rich Bitch who hates Lynn and Sarah. Madeleine deliberately tries to get in his good graces so that he allows her to move into the ducal house, where her and her two children continue to terrorize Lynn and encourage her to go back to Japan so that they can have the perfect family. While in the manga, Lynn eventually breaks and returns to Japan after George and Madeleine's marriage, in the anime George defies his father and chooses Lynn over Madeleine, vowing that they'll stay together no matter what.
  • The Inciting Incident of Little House with an Orange Roof is when a single dad and a single mom are tricked into buying the same house. Along with their children, they gradually come together to be a family.
  • Yuriota ni Yuri wa Gohatto Desu?!: When Ririka's father married Miku's mother, initially Miku became insular and withdrawn and stayed in her room, since she found it weird and self-conscious to suddenly have new family members. Then Ririka took Miku into town, hung out with her, and suggested they focus on being friends instead of family. Miku agreed, and they've been close ever since.

    Film — Animated 
  • Dreambuilders: The conflict of the movie revolves around this. Step-siblings Minna and Jenny fail to get along, with Minna meddling in Jenny's dreams in an attempt to change her personality, with Jenny also refusing to acknowledge John as her father until she tries to drive a wedge between him and Minna.
  • Over the Moon: The catalyst of the film's plot. Four years after her mother's death, Fei-Fei doesn't want to accept that her father is moving on with Mrs. Zhong, and hates her soon-to-be-stepbrother Chin, so she tries to build a rocket to the moon to meet Chang'e and show her father proof of eternal love.

    Film — Live Action 
  • The Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore vehicle Blended, where they play single parents Jim and Lauren who wind up taking a "familymoon" together along with all their kids. During the trip, Jim and Lauren grow closer and bond with the others' children, who also begin to get along despite initial awkwardness. The film ends with the parents affirming their desire to be with each other (to the delight of their kids).
  • In The Craft: Legacy, Lily has recently moved in with her new stepfather and three stepbrothers, whom she has never previously interacted with much. She has difficulty adjusting and that's before her stepdad is revealed to be the Big Bad.
  • The short film Jurassic World: Battle at Big Rock features a blended family with three children: one from each parent and a baby from both parents. The two older children don't get along, but when the family is attacked by dinosaurs, the children help each other.
  • Flower (2017): Erica apparently scares off all her mom's boyfriends and resents that her future stepdad Bob and now Bob's son Luke are invading her space.
  • In Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, Callie, Phoebe, Trevor, and Gary have moved in together. However, there is awkwardness and frustration because Gary is unsure of the boundaries between himself and the Spenglers so he tries to be the affable peacemaker in the group, leaving Callie to be the disciplinarian. Callie finally tells Gary that she wants him to be a proper father figure and he awkwardly steps up, even telling off Phoebe when she starts acting out. By the end of the film, the relationship progresses enough that Phoeobe tries out calling Gary "Dad", to his surprise and delight.
  • In Man of the House (1995), Ben and his mother, Sandy, have formed a tight bond after his father abandoned them and he likes the routine they've settled into. He doesn't even mind Sandy occasionally dating because none of the suitors have been able to pierce their bubble. This changes when Sandy meets Jack Sturges, who sticks around and tries to ingratiate himself into the dynamic, so Ben declares war to try and run Jack off.
  • The film Step Brothers has a middle-aged variation, starring two manchildren who now have to learn to live with each other after their single parents get married.
  • This House Has People in It: The series is about a newly-blended family, with Tom and his son Jackson moving in with his new wife Anne, her daughter Madison, and their grandmother. It's mentioned in one video that they're all having a hard time adjusting, but that Jackson is having the hardest time, especially since he's stuck sleeping in the same room as the grandmother. Madison, meanwhile, finds him weird, and she is reminded by Anne that they need to be more mindful of how they share the space in their house.
  • Widowed Abby's three sons clash with widower Jake's daughter in With Six You Get Eggroll. Although the children make sure neither of the single parents are comfortable in their own houses, Abby and Jake fall in love anyway and elope — but neither of their houses are large enough for the combined family.
  • Yours, Mine, and Ours: Frank and Helen have altogether eighteen children from their previous marriages, and the film is about making their marriage work with that many people involved.

  • The Babysitters Club:
    • Downplayed with Kirsty and her new stepfather Watson. She initially acts like a brat to him, but eventually accepts him as part of her family. She also bonds pretty easily with her new stepsiblings.
    • The series mines some drama from this trope when Mary Ann's single father Richard marries his high school sweetheart, Sharon (Dawn's single mother). Although Mary Anne and Dawn are good friends, they take some time to get used to the notion of a stepfamily. They soon get over it, though, and Mary Anne also develops a good relationship with Sharon. However, Dawn later begins to miss California enough to move back there to live with her biological dad.
  • Cinderella: Ella's father marries her Wicked Stepmother, who (alongside her own abhorrent daughters) treats her abominably.
  • Genocide Online: Some parts of the plot involve Komari and Seigi trying to bond with Reina, their step-sister, despite the fact that she hates them.
  • The Romanian novel Morometii is about two different families united through marriage. Ilie Moromete's three sons Paraschiv, Nila, and Achim don't quite get along with Catrina's daughters Tita and Ilinca, and their hate for their mother is even greater. Moromete's sister also hates his new family, and even manages to turn the boys against their own father.
  • In Mostly Dead Things, Bastien is Brynn's son from a different father, although Milo raised him as his own.
  • My Stepmom's Daughter is My Ex: Mizuto and Yume dated each other but broke up before entering high school. They are taken by surprise when their single parents marry one another only two weeks later, making the two siblings. Both of them struggle with this as they still have feelings for one another, causing them to act as Flirty Stepsiblings.
  • Subverted in the Nursery Crime books. The Genre Savvy Detectives' Guild expect and demands that detectives have dramatic, tragic home lives. As part of Jack's continued defiance of the tropes expected of him, he has a very harmonious family life. He's Happily Married to a woman with children from a previous marriage, who get along great with his own children.
  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: Carmen is coping with the fact that her father, without telling her, is marrying a new woman, complete with kids, and the fear that he's replacing her.
  • A big chunk of the drama in The Suitcase Kid stems from Andy's difficulties adjusting to having stepparents and stepsiblings. As the family therapist points out, she's abruptly gone from being an only child living with both parents to having a stepfather, stepmother and five stepsiblings, plus a half-sibling on the way. It doesn't help that some of Andy's stepsiblings, especially Katie, are horrible to her and make her feel even less like she belongs anywhere, while her parents aren't very understanding as they're too caught up in themselves. Although the book focuses mostly on Andy's perspective, there are also hints that it's hard for some of her stepsiblings too, especially for Bill's children.
  • Tortall Universe: Downplayed, but present, in the Trickster's Duet. Sarai and Dove both lost their mother very young, and after grieving, their father married her best friend, Winna. Nearly adults by the time the story begins, the two do love their step-mother and half-siblings, but are sometimes frustrated by her presence. Winna, for her part, is afraid they don't respect her as they would their real mom. When Sarai escapes the country and elopes, she assures Winna that she loves her.
  • In the backstory of Robert Westall's The Wind Eye. When Bertrand and Madeline married, each had children from a previous marriage (Bertrand had Beth and Sally; Madeline had Mike). By the opening of the book the children get on quite well with each other, which is more than can be said for the adults.
  • American Girls Collection: Courtney and her stepsister Tina struggle to get along.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Jim Henson sitcom Aliens in the Family was about a man named Brody (yes...) who has a son and a daughter, and who marries an alien woman with three kids. Culture clash Hilarity Ensues.
  • The Brady Bunch comes together when Mike (a single dad to three sons) marries Carol (a single mom to three daughters), and the show is largely about the new family's shenanigans.
  • There is a minor amount of dramedy regarding this trope on Brooklyn Nine-Nine when Boyle and Gina become stepsiblings through their respective single parents, as they had been Friends with Benefits previously. Boyle's father also gets cold feet about the wedding, as he jumped into marriage after only knowing Gina's mother for a short period of time. Later, the marriage ends after Gina's mom cheated on Boyle's dad.
  • The titular characters of Drake & Josh are stepbrothers with opposing personalities. The first episode is about their parents' wedding announcement, and ends with the two eventually accepting each other as brothers. Throughout the rest of the show, they're united in their dislike of Drake's little sister Megan.
  • Season two of Glee had a subplot about Finn's mom Carole finding her Second Love in Kurt's dad Burt. Both boys had their issues with the relationship and feared the new family (Finn worried that Burt would replace his deceased father, Kurt worried that Burt preferred Finn), but eventually became close stepbrothers. Not bad for two guys who started out with a Gay Guy Seeks Popular Jock dynamic!
  • Life with Derek is a sitcom about the newly blended Venturi-McDonald family, where the leads, new stepsiblings Derek and Casey, notably do not get along.
  • Microsoap is a British comedy focusing on a blended family. When protagonist Emily persuades local handyman Roger to give things a try with her mother Jane. Most of the initial conflict comes from the two families struggling with their differing styles and outlooks but later on, as the kids grow up together the focus of the conflict turns to how whacky and chaotic they all are.
  • A big aspect of Modern Family revolves around Jay remarrying with Gloria and gaining Manny as a stepson and the awkwardness Claire and Mitchell have at having a stepmother similar in age to themselves. Jay and Manny also frequently come into conflict because Jay knows that being a responsible parent means occasionally being the bad guy but Manny worships Javier, his biological father, who spoils Manny but is otherwise unreliable. Among the main arcs of the series is Claire and Mitchell accepting Gloria as part of the family while Jay and Manny eventually acknowledging they are father and son in every way that matters.
  • Reboot (2022): Invoked. The Show Within a Show Step Right Up is a man named Lawrence who now lives with his new wife Josie, her ex-husband Jake, and their son Cody. Though the original show seemed to be drama-free about the blended setup, Hannah, the original showrunner's daughter, reboots it with the intention of revealing Lawrence had a daughter from an earlier relationship, Whitney, the entire time. Subsequent scenes show that Whitney integrating herself with the family is a subplot.
  • In Step by Step, Frank Lambert and Carol Foster marry and each brings three children into the mix. However, the rough-and-tumble Lambert children and the urbane Foster children loathe each other and much of the comedy is driven by how the two sides snipe at one another constantly.
  • Stranger Things: Billy and Max are new stepsiblings through the marriage of Billy's father to Max's mother, but it's explicitly an unhealthy and unhappy dynamic. Not only are things strained from their move to a small town in Indiana, but Billy is controlling and verbally abusive to Max because his father is physically abusive, while Max's mother doesn't intervene. And that's before the Big Bad takes advantage of Billy's vulnerability.

  • Inspired by the former marriage of her husband, rapper/producer Swizz Beats, to musician Mashonda Tifrere, Alicia Keys wrote the aptly titled "Blended Family (What You Do For Love)" to reflect on the experiences of the children of both marriages and the tension between them and their parents.

    Video Games 
  • In Stardew Valley, blended family drama is part of what makes Sebastian so angsty. His biological father is unmentioned, and he lives with his mother Robin, stepfather Demetrius, and younger half-sister Maru. He has a You're Not My Father attitude towards Demetrius and feels that the bubbly and intelligent Maru gets all the attention.

  • The titular characters of Kevin & Kell are a rabbit and a wolf who got married, with each being a single parent before. Kevin the rabbit was divorced and had an adopted daughter who is a hedgehog, and Kell the wolf was a widow who had a son. Shortly after the start of the comic, they have a child together who looks like a rabbit but eats like a wolf. Kell's son Rudy doesn't respect Kevin in the beginning and it takes a long time for them to bond.
  • Forest Hill starts going in this direction when Colin, a fox with a son and daughter, and Flora, a rabbit with a son and a foster son who is an otter, start dating each other and helping to take care of each other's children. Thing are complicated by the fact that several of the characters have experienced sexual abuse.

    Western Animation 
  • One of the central themes of The Cleveland Show is fatherhood and learning to live in a blended family — specifically one formed by Cleveland, his old flame Donna, his biological son Cleveland Jr., and his stepchildren Roberta and Rallo, with whom he doesn't quite get along.
  • In the latter half of Clone High's only season, Joan learns that her adopted grandfather has been dating the adoptive mother of her mortal nemesis Cleo, and then a storm destroys her house, forcing her and her grandfather to move in with Cleo and her mother. She's not thrilled about it, to say the least.
  • OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes: After Venomous and Fink move in with Boxman's family, the episode "All in the Villainy" focuses on Boxman's robot son Darrell and Venomous's minion/daughter Fink learning to get along.
  • In Over the Garden Wall, it's eventually shown that part of Wirt's frustration with five-year-old Greg is because they're only half-brothers, and Wirt resents the presence of Greg and Greg's father. Part of Wirt's arc is learning to accept and protect Greg.
  • The Simpsons: In "Ned 'n' Edna's Blend Agenda", widower Ned Flanders and his second wife Edna Krabappel quickly encounter challenges when attempting to coparent Ned's two sons. As a teacher, Edna is skeptical of the education the boys are getting at their Christian private school and withdraws them to enroll them in the public school where she works without asking Ned's permission. Meanwhile, overprotective Ned is concerned about Edna's more relaxed parenting style. He's reassured when he watches his neighbors Homer and Marge argue and realizes that they've never been in full agreement on how to parent their children, but have made their marriage work nonetheless.
  • Although Princess Sofia the First has a good relationship with her stepfather King Roland and stepbrother Prince James, the same can't always be said with her new stepsister Princess Amber, who is often antagonistic towards her because she thinks Sofia will steal her thunder. Later averted, with Amber being much nicer to Sofia throughout the series due to her Character Development.
  • Total Drama Presents: The Ridonculous Race: Chet and Lorenzo's single parents married one year before the start of the show and they still hate each other at the beginning of the race. They were forced by their parents to take part to in order to learn how to get along. They spend most of their episodes fighting each other, but it ends up working in the end after they discover they have more things in common than they thought.