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Having Kids May Hike Parental Conflict with In-Laws

Having Kids May Hike Parental Conflict with In-Laws

Marriage is a complicated proposition as each partner works to create a common bond. Implicit in the new family is developing a relationship with the parents of the respective spouse.

Researchers describe the contact with in-laws as an intergenerational relationship and an environment that typically includes various forms of help and support but also tensions and conflicts.

Although relations with in-laws are the subject of many anecdotes and proverbs across cultures, they remain little studied in contemporary societies.

A new Finnish study investigates how being a parent is associated with conflicts between family generations.

Using survey data from Finland with over 1,200 respondents, study authors, lead by Professor Anna Rotkirch, studied conflicts that couples reported having with their own parents and their in-laws.

Overall, Finns reported higher conflict occurrence with their own parents than with their in-laws.

Compared to childless couples, couples with children were as likely to report conflicts with their own parents. But they were more likely to report conflicts with their parents-in-law. The results took into account how frequently family members were in contact with each other and how emotionally close they felt, as well as other sociodemographic factors.

Previous studies have shown that in-laws become more “kin-like” to each other when a grandchild unites kin lineages.

Treating an in-law almost as biological kin can make the adults involved feel closer to each other and help each other more, what has been called a “kinship premium.”

This study documented evidence also of a “kinship penalty.” As in-laws become more kin-like through the presence of a grandchild, their mutual conflicts increase.

Childcare provided by grandparents is of great help to parents of young children, but may also be a source of conflicts.

“Daughters-in-law were more likely to report conflicts when their mother-in-law provided more grandchild care,” said researcher Mirkka Danielsbacka.

“This indicates that the increase in conflicts between in-laws are related to grandchild care.”

The study appears in the journal Evolutionary Psychological Science.

Source: Academy of Finland

Having Kids May Hike Parental Conflict with In-Laws

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Having Kids May Hike Parental Conflict with In-Laws. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 7 Aug 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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