You're Not Alone: Couples With Children Report More Conflicts With In-Laws

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Cue all the bad jokes about mothers-in-law. The Academy of Finland recently conducted a study on the frequency of conflicts that occur between couples and their in-laws. A survey given to 1,200 people showed that, in general, people have conflicts with their own parents. And among couples, the fact remained that each person in a couple reported conflicts with his or her own parents. But when it came to couples who were themselves parents, the researchers noted a difference: those couples were more likely to report conflicts with their parents-in-law.

On the plus side, the increase in conflict likely has to do with how closely the couples feel to their in-laws. According to Science Daily:

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.

In other words, people start to see their in-laws as close family members. And aren’t we all more likely to do away with our best behavior when we’re among those whom we know and love the most? Furthermore, the conflicts that tend to arise in these situations might have to do with childcare:

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,” says researcher Mirkka Danielsbacka. “This indicates that the increase in conflicts between in-laws are related to grandchild care.”

If you are fortunate enough to have parents or in-laws who are willing to babysit, then chances are that a few misunderstandings or conflicts might arise. Perhaps that is a small price to pay for being surrounded by helpful, caring family members!