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Stepsister or Half-Sister: What's the Difference

Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She writes articles that are interesting to her readers.

"The Brady Brunch" was a blended family.

"The Brady Brunch" was a blended family.

It is definitely confusing when it comes to stating the relationship of children in a blended family. While the terms stepsister and half-sister are used interchangeably, they are indeed very different.

Stepsister (no hyphen) and half-sister (hyphen), are not the same. They indicate two different relationships.

  • A stepsibling is the daughter or son of a stepparent.
  • A half-sibling is a blood sister who shares one of the biological parents but not both.
  • Half-siblings are related, but stepsiblings are not related.
  • Stepchildren of a stepfather in a blended family are not blood related to the children of their stepmother.
  • Half-brothers and half-sisters share genetic data but stepbrothers and stepsisters don't.

That might be confusing. Perhaps you can understand it better by looking at some of large blended families as examples.

"The Brady Bunch"

More than likely, you are familiar with The Brady Bunch series that aired on ABC from September 26, 1969 to March 8, 1974.

The family consisted of six children. Mike Brady had three sons: Greg, Peter, and Bobby. He married Carol who had three lovely daughters: Marcia, Jan, and Cindy.

None of the children shared both parents so they were stepsisters and stepbrothers to one another.

If Mike and Carol had a baby girl together, then the baby would share both parents and would be a half-sister or half-brother to the six older kids because the baby would share the girls’ mother and the boys’ father.

Another way to look at it is that your stepfather’s children are your stepsisters and brothers, and the same situation exists if you have a stepmother. There is no such thing as a half-mother or a half-father.

Let’s clarify it another way.

If two people marry with children from a previous marriage, those children will become stepchildren to each other because none of them share both parents. If the parents have a baby together, the baby would be a half-sibling of the older children.

Famous Half-Siblings

You have probably heard about Meghan Markle's family. Meghan's father already had two children when he married Meghan's mother. The two children became Meghan's half-siblings because they share the same father but not the same mother.

Some newspapers and television reports get it wrong because they use both words interchangeably.

Actor Donny Wahlberg is the eighth of nine children. His siblings are Arthur, Jim, Paul, Robert, Tracey, Michelle, and Debbie (died in 2003), and Mark.

When Donny's mother, Alma Elaine, married Donny's father, Donald Edmond Wahlberg, Sr. he already had three children from his first marriage, Donna, Scott, and Buddy. The children became Donny's half-siblings.

Kardashian and Jenner Girls. The older Jenner children from Bruce's first two marriages not pictured.

Kardashian and Jenner Girls. The older Jenner children from Bruce's first two marriages not pictured.

Kardashians and Jenner Children

What about the Kardashians and the Jenners? This is a very good example of half-siblings.

Robert Kardashian and Kris Kardashian (name at the time) had four children: Kourtney, Kim, Khloé, and Robert. After Robert Kardashian's death, Kris married Bruce Jenner (name at the time) who had four children of his own from two previous marriages: Burt and Casey with his first wife Chrystie Crownover and two sons, Brandon and Brody, from his marriage to Linda Thompson.

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After Bruce and Kris married, the children created a blended family. This was the "Brady Brunch" scenario.

The Kardashian girls became stepchildren to Bruce and stepsiblings to Bruce's older children from his first two marriages. When Kris and Bruce had Kendall and Kylie Jenner, they became half-sisters to Kris' older children.

Stepfather and Stepmother

The children can be half-sisters or half-brothers to other children in a blended family, but the parents can never be described as half. However, the parents can be stepmother and stepfather.

When a man marries a woman with children, he becomes a stepfather and the woman's children become his stepchildren. When a woman marries a man with children, she becomes a stepmother and his children become her stepchildren.

Example of stepbrother and half-brother

This is a good example of both a stepbrother and a half-brother.

Harold has a son Raymond from his wife ex-wife Marva.

Harold marries Shirley who already has a son Samuel from her marriage with David.

A son is born to Harold and Shirley who they name Leonard.

Raymond and Samuel are stepbrothers. (They do not share blood)

Raymond and Leonard are half-brothers. (They share half the blood from Harold and half the blood from Shirley).

Steve Harvey's blended family.

Steve Harvey's blended family.

One Blended Family

Comedian Steve Harvey had four children from two marriages before he married Marjorie Bridges who had three children of her own.

Harvey had three children with his first wife Marcia, twin girls Karli and Brandi, and son Steven, Jr. He and his second wife, Mary Shackelford, had one son named Wynton.

To avoid the terms, step-siblings and half-siblings, Harvey calls all seven children his own without making any distinction with them at all.


Some stepsiblings or half-siblings do not use either of those terms. If they grew up in the same house with a biological mother and a stepfather, they still refer to their siblings as sisters and brothers and do not use the terms "step" or "half" at all. That's the way it is in my family involving 13 children; 10 children from my mother and 3 children from my father.

Stepsisters or Half-Sisters?

My mother was married three times and had four children, including me, from her first marriage and six children from her second husband. Therefore, I am one of ten children by my mother; eight girls and two boys.

My father was married three times. He and my mother had four children together. He had one daughter from his second marriage and no children from his third marriage. He had two other daughters out of wedlock from two different mothers.

Needless to say, I am from a very big family. So what do I call all these sisters?

While the terms stepsisters and half-sisters are involved, this is how I refer to them.

Technically, true sisters are only the four daughters from my mother's first marriage with our father. The six children by my stepfather are my stepsisters, but we all refer to each other as sisters and brothers because we all lived together and were raised in the same household by my mother.

The daughter from my father's second message is my half-sister because we share the same father, but not the same mother and we didn't grow up in the same household. However, we are related by blood only through my father. Therefore, his daughter is my half-sister because a half-sibling is related by blood through one of the biological parents.

My father's two other daughters born out of wedlock are also my half-sisters. They are related to me by his blood and not by my mother's blood.


Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on May 08, 2018:

Some may think mundane. We think it love.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on May 08, 2018:

Eric, the relationships can be confusing. I am from a blended family, but we do not make a distinction. We are all sisters and brothers and never refer to one another as stepsisters and stepbrothers or half-sisters and half-brothers.

Sometimes the English language can be confusing much like driving on a parkway and parking in a driveway. There are many more examples which just gave me inspiration for another article. Look out for it.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on May 08, 2018:

Well I will be. Never gave it a second's notice.

Mine is a bit different in thought. My elder children from my ex-wife, well two of the three are closer to my wife's age than myself. My young son is the age of a child that my elder children would have rather than I. My wife has never, to my knowledge called her stepchildren by that word. They are my children in parlance.

To my knowledge no one has ever called my youngest (who is a half brother) a half brother.

Now do not get me wrong here. When we are all together people just assume that my wife is my daughter and my youngest belongs to my one of my elder children.

Very interesting.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on May 08, 2018:

I belong to a blended family. Since all of us lived in the same house and grew up together we do not make a distinction. We call each other brothers and sisters (no half-siblings or stepsiblings).

I must admit it was hard keeping the definitions straight as I wrote the article. I hope it doesn't confuse anyone with the examples I provided.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 08, 2018:

Good to understand the distinction. So many families now are blended and as you've said they don't bother calling each other with distinctions.

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