Study: Relationships with in-laws have tangible effect on marriage

A lengthy study of family dynamics and lasting relationships has found that in-laws may play a major role in determining overall family happiness, including reducing or increasing the risk of the divorce.

According to the results of the study, which was performed by researchers at the University of Michigan, couples were 20 percent less likely to get divorced when the husband had a close relationship with his in-laws. But in a surprising twist, women who had a close relationship with their husband’s parents were 20 percent more likely to get divorced.

The study, which followed 373 married couples for over two decades, theorized that the discrepancies can likely be traced to the different ways in which men and women develop relationships with their in-laws.

Professor Terri Orbuch, the lead researcher, indicated that women, for example, value close relationships but may also find in-laws to be intrusive. Men, by contrast, don’t place as much weight on the actions of their in-laws and are more concerned with their own families.

“Women value a close relationship with their in-laws but may ultimately view them as meddling, while men are more interested in providing for their families, and take their in-laws’ actions less personally,” she said. “Because relationships are so important to women, their identity as a wife and mother is central to their being. They interpret what their in-laws say and do as interference into their identity as a spouse and parent.”

Orbuch ultimately recommends that parents with sons be acutely aware of how their actions might be interpreted as meddlesome to their daughters-in-law, and to avoid potentially intrusive actions in order to preserve the quality of the relationship. Similarly, she advises wives to take steps to preserve boundaries with their in-laws in order to avoid potential conflicts that can introduce unnecessary stress into the marriage.

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This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


The Huffington Post, “In-laws and marriage study: Son-in-law key to lasting marriage,” Nov. 27, 2012