• Angie Sloan

Recent Study Spotlights MIL Relationship

Updated: May 10, 2020

The mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationship can be complicated, but it is one that is very important in the family structure. Discussing these relationships elicits strong emotions from both mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. These relationships can be wonderful—filled with mutual love and respect, or they can be strained and tense, and in extreme cases, absolutely terrible. Most are somewhere in between with a distinct lean toward the positive.

Pot of pink tulips

Mostly Happy with a Sprinkling of Discontent

More than half of daughters-in-law and 74% of mothers-in-law are satisfied or very satisfied with their relationship with the other, according to our recent interviews and surveys with more than 800 women across the U.S. Access results here.

Though the majority of respondents skew more toward positive than negative feelings in their relationships, a significant number of daughters-in-law are unhappy. Twenty percent of daughters-in-law were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. Five percent of mothers-in-law feel dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.

Common Survey Themes that Pop Up Repeatedly

Daughters-in-Law: I Like it When My Mother-in-Law ...

  • Loves her grandchildren and is helpful with them

  • Respects our marriage and respects our rules regarding our children

  • Is thoughtful and welcoming to me

Daughters-in-Law: I Don't Like it When My Mother-in-Law ...

  • Criticizes my parenting approaches

  • Gives unsolicited advice

  • Is judgmental about me or others

Mothers-in-Law: I Like it When My Daughter-in-Law ...

  • Loves my child

  • Is a good mother to my grandchildren

  • Is smart, kind and caring

Mothers-in-Law: I Don't Like it When My Daughter-in-Law ...

  • Leaves me out when it comes to grandchildren and life events

  • Ignores, blames or complains about my child

Impact of Relationship

Women are generally the social leaders in families and, as such, these women-in-law can either create opportunities for frequent visits or allow family gatherings to be rare occasions.

Positive relationships between mothers- and daughters-in law can affect the amount of time families spend together. When daughters-in-law feel happy with their mother-in-law relationships, they, along with their spouses and any children, spend more time with their in-laws than those who are unhappy. Our data shows that 48% of the very satisfied daughters-in-law spend more time with their spouse's family than their own. For those daughters-in-law who are very unsatisfied in this relationship, only 17% say they spend more time with their in-laws.

For family harmony, it's important for the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship to run smoothly. In many cases, daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law experience relationships that are gratifying and fulfilling. According to respondents, honesty and open mindedness go a long way to create these positive relationships.

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