Steve Jobs’s Personal Life: Relationships & Children

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What was Steve Jobs’s personal life like? How many children did Jobs have?

Even when he was inventing new phones and computers, Steve Jobs had time for a personal life. The entrepreneur and inventor had four children, one of which he denied paternity for years.

Keep reading to learn more about Steve Jobs’s personal life.

Steve Jobs’s Personal Life

Steve Jobs’s personal life went through ups and downs just as his career did. Just as Jobs himself had grown up feeling both abandoned and loved, so he too would latch on to some of those close to him while treating others with coldness and dispassion. Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs describes how he would end up abandoning one family, reconnecting with another, and finally making a family of his own.

Outside of his loving relationship with his adoptive parents, Jobs’s family life was complex. In 1977 he had a daughter, Lisa, with his girlfriend Chrisann Brennan. Isaacson writes that even after a court-mandated paternity test, Jobs remained in denial about being Lisa’s father, abandoning her in much the same way that his own birth parents had abandoned him. (Shortform note: The 1970s saw a sharp increase in the number of children growing up without a father. Though Jobs grew up with two parents present, it’s not uncommon for people who experience abandonment in childhood to sabotage their own relationships as adults.)

In 1980, Jobs began the search for his biological mother, now Joanne Simpson, though he didn’t reach out to her until after his adoptive mother died in 1986. When they finally met, Simpson explained the details of Jobs’s birth and adoption, while apologizing for giving him up. Jobs also discovered that he had a sister, the novelist Mona Simpson, who eventually grew to become his close friend. When Mona tracked down their biological father, Jobs was stunned to learn that he’d met him in passing at a restaurant his father had owned. Nevertheless, Isaacson says, Jobs didn’t want to meet him again as his son.

(Shortform note: Jobs’s biological sister, Mona Simpson, is a professor of English at UCLA and the author of several novels. Her award-winning debut, Anywhere but Here, is a fictionalized account of her relationship with her mother, while her later novel, A Regular Guy, is a thinly veiled depiction of Steve Jobs himself.)

Jobs met his future wife, Laurene Powell, at a lecture he gave at Stanford University in 1989. According to Isaacson, she was a perfect match for his traits, balancing his negative aspects and providing an anchor for his personality. They married in March 1991, and together had three children—Reed, Erin, and Eve. (Shortform note: Laurene Powell-Jobs earned an MBA from Stanford University after working for Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs. She has founded several philanthropic organizations, such as the XQ Institute and the Emerson Collective, which support education and social entrepreneurship.)

Steve Jobs’s Personal Life: Relationships & Children

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Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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