Broken Families and Half-Brothers and Whole-Sisters

I was born in a time when being a child from a “broken family” meant your mother and father were divorced and you were irretrievably marked in the marketplace of social commerce as damaged goods.  Today, there’s slightly less stigma of being from a broken family — because there are so many more of them now — but that broken label is still hard to shake even if you never let it directly affect you.

I was listening to Nick Cannon — Mariah Carey’s baby daddy — on the radio the other day and he was having an argument with his female co-host about the definition of “brother” and “sister.”

She was arguing that children who have one parent in common are “brothers and sisters” and Nick was arguing that, unless the children are from the same mother and father, the one-parent-in-common offspring makes only “half-brothers and half-sisters.”

Nick’s co-host was getting angrier and angrier as she tried to convince him that the “half-” part was mean and unnecessary and Nick countered that the “half-” prefix wasn’t prejudicial, it was just fact.  Nick said his father had several children with different women and he doesn’t know all of them and that’s why the “half-” label is important because not using it suggests an intimacy and familiarity that does not exist between DNA-only related offspring.

I agree with Nick Cannon.  After my father divorced my mother, he married another woman — they have since divorced — and had three children with her.  There was an early attempt to integrate me into the lives of his three new kids, but it was always temporary and awkward.  My biological father insisted we were all brothers and sisters, but I would always correct him and say, “We’re half-brothers and half-sister.”  He didn’t like that separation and I didn’t appreciate his umbrella classification of his kids to dilute the aftereffects of his broken marriage vows.

What’s your take on this?  If kids share at least one parent, are they “full siblings” or only “half-?”  Does biology play any role in this?  Can a new marriage with kids from unrelated parents still be considered “brothers and sisters” when there’s only a legally binding agreement and no common DNA?