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B. Stepparents: Legal Strangers In Family Law

Narrator: This is Science Today. A social welfare expert is calling for a shift in family law away from the emphasis on biological parenthood. Mary Ann Mason, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley says rather than focusing on good parenting skills, the law focuses on biology.

Mason: This doesn't mean that biology doesn't have its place. A biological connection can be an important motivating factor for adults to take care of children because there is an emotional tie there. But that doesn't mean it's the most important one for children, particularly from their perspective if they have not been raised by that parent.

Narrator: Instead, stepparents are legal strangers to the children they parent.

Mason: Children are not being well served in different circumstances like stepfamilies because the family forms are considered problematical to society and therefore, the public policy is not to encourage them in any way. And by discouraging them, by not giving them the appropriate recognition and benefits, we actually disadvantage the children in those families a good deal.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.